Five Takeaways: Clippers Hammer Rockets, But Remain Tied With Jazz For Fourth Seed

LOS ANGELES – The chase for the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs will come down to the final game of the regular season.

Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford scored 19 points apiece to lead the Clippers to a 125-96 rout of the Houston Rockets on Monday night at Staples Center. Paul also had nine assists and five rebounds.

The win kept the Clippers (50-31) tied with the Utah Jazz, who earned a 105-99 win over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.

The Clippers can clinch homecourt advantage with a victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday at Staples Center. The Jazz host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. A loss by Utah will allow the Clippers to open the playoffs at home. If both clubs win, the Clippers will be the No. 4 team because they won the season series.

“We worry about us,” said Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who collected 14 points and 11 rebounds against the Rockets. “We don’t worry about what any other team is doing, we just want to continue to build on what we are doing, how we are playing and just continue to play well and build off of this every day and every practice that we have.”

Against the Rockets, the Clippers used a dominating third quarter to capture their sixth consecutive victory.

Blake Griffin contributed 18 points and eight rebounds and Luc Mbah a Moute added 15 points for the Clippers.

The Clippers, who trailed by as many as eight in the second quarter, led 61-57 at the break. Los Angeles used a 17-5 run to end the half and never trailed again.

A 24-3 surge by the Clippers resulted in an 85-60 advantage after a dunk by Griffin with 4:31 left in the third quarter. The Rockets never recovered.

By the end of the third, the Clippers were coasting with a 97-69 lead.

The Clippers held MVP candidate James Harden to 14 points on 2-of-9 shooting. Eric Gordon had a team-high 17 points for the Rockets (54-27), who have already clinched the third seed in the Western Conference.

The Rockets rested centers Clint Capela and Nene and guard Lou Williams. Patrick Beverley missed the game with a right shoulder strain.

Quote of the Night

“Paul’s amazing. He’s the only guy at 54 years old that can miss two games and sit that long and then start scoring. That was impressive.” — Doc Rivers on Paul Pierce passing Celtic great John Havlicek for 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 26,396 points.

Speaking the Truth

Pierce scored 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to pass Havlicek. Pierce topped the mark when he scored a bucket inside in the fourth quarter much to the delight of the Clippers’ bench. “I don’t know how these guys know all these numbers,” Rivers said. “I’m amazed by that, and Chris knew. He comes over to me and says ‘Paul needs nine points,’ and I’m thinking for what? I had no clue. And then when it’s Havlicek, I’m like oh no we’re getting him in because that would be great for Paul and Havlicek to be kind of next to each other.”

Jordan added: “I am extremely happy for Paul. I did not know what was going on. Doc asked him if he needed to get loose first, and I was like for what? But then they told us what was going on and then we were all engaged and happy for Paul.”

Inside Job

The Clippers dictated with a 54-42 advantage on points in the paint. They also enjoyed a slight edge in rebounding 49-41, including 12-9 on the offensive boards. The Clippers also had 18 second-chance points to 11 for Houston.

Third Quarter

The Clippers blew the game open by outscoring the Rockets 36-12 in the third quarter. The Clippers’ defense limited the Rockets to one field goal for more than six minutes. Los Angeles outshot Houston 66.7 percent to 23.8 percent in the third.

Dialing from Long Distance

The Rockets have feasted with their 3-point shooting this season, but the Clippers did an excellent job of guarding the perimeter. In the pivotal third quarter, the Clippers forced the Rockets to miss seven of their eight attempts from beyond the arc. The Clippers connected on 4 of 6 3-pointers during the quarter.

Overall, the Clippers made 10 of 26 (38.5 percent) from long distance compared to 9 of 40 (22.5 percent) for the Rockets.

For the Record

Rivers surpassed Mike Dunleavy with his 216th win. It is the most victories by a Clippers coach during the regular season.

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