LOS ANGELES (AP) — James Harden scored 31 points, Chris Paul added 29 points, and the Houston Rockets routed the Los Angeles Clippers 135-103 on Wednesday night in a potential playoff preview.
Clint Capela had 24 points and 15 rebounds to help the Rockets win their fourth in a row. They showed little fatigue in cruising past the NBA’s hottest team while playing their last back-to-back of the season.
The Rockets currently own the third seed in the Western Conference and the Clippers are sixth, which would pair them in the first round.
Paul stunned the crowd by hitting a deep 3-pointer that beat the buzzer to end the third, in which the Rockets outscored the Clippers 34-20.
Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Clippers with 20 points and Danilo Gallinari added 16 points. They had won an NBA-best 13 of 15 coming in, but lost for the first time in three meetings with Houston this season.
The Rockets set the tone early, shooting 64% in the first quarter.
Houston stretched its lead to 22 in the second before the Clippers closed on a 9-2 run to trail 68-53 at halftime.
Harden and Paul dominated the third. First, Paul ran off six straight points and later Harden scored eight in a row. Paul’s back-to-back 3-pointers sent the Rockets into the final quarter leading 102-73.
Both teams mostly went to their benches in the game’s final five minutes when fans streamed out early.
Rockets: They had lost eight of their last 13 against the Clippers at Staples Center. … They improved to 8-4 in the second game of a back-to-back. … The game reunited G Austin Rivers with Doc Rivers, his father and Clippers coach. The younger Rivers is averaging 8.2 points off the bench since signing as a free agent at Christmas.
Clippers: G Patrick Beverley (right hip pointer) rested. … The teams played for the first time since late October. The Clippers won the first two meetings, but several players from both teams either didn’t play in those games or were later traded. … Clipper Darrell razzed Paul in his first trip to the free throw line. After making both, Paul tapped his chest and nodded in Darrell’s direction. … Rapper Ty Dolla $ign sat courtside with a small dog in his lap.
Rockets: Host New York Knicks on Friday.
Clippers: Host Lakers on Friday.