Less than five minutes into the second half Thursday at Toyota Center, Austin Rivers finger roll put the Los Angeles Clippers up 12 points, prompting Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni to call a timeout, and his team responded by scoring the next 14 points. From that point on, the Rockets never trailed again, and won 101-96.
The win improves the Rockets to 54-14 on the season and with New Orleans’ loss in San Antonio, the Rockets have clinched the Southwest division title for the second time in four seasons as well as homecourt in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
James Harden led the Rockets with 24 points, but the start of the night for the Rockets was Eric Gordon, who scored 23 points off the bench, connecting on 7-of-9 shots from behind the 3-point line. The rest of his teammates combined to shoot 5-of-32.
Clint Capela added 19 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high six blocks as the Rockets have won three straight since seeing their 17 game win streak end last week in Toronto.
The Rockets led 28-26 after a quarter, but shot just 35 percent with six turnovers in the second to fall behind by four at halftime. There were eight ties and nine lead changes in the first half.
Los Angeles scored the first seven points of the third quarter to make it an 11-point game. The Rockets did get the margin within six, but three straight Clippers’ layups pushed the lead to 12 until D’Antoni’s timeout changed things.
The Clippers scored just 30 points in the game’s final 19 minutes as they fall to 37-30, a full game back of the San Antonio Spurs for the last playoff spot in the West.
Tobias Harris led the Clippers with 29 points, while Austin Rivers added 20.
The Rockets will be back in action Saturday night when they play at the New Orleans Pelicans.