Clippers 99, Rockets 93
It had been so long since the Los Angeles Clippers won on the road, some players felt as if Thursday night's 99-93 victory was their first away from home this season.
Their road losing streak had stretched to 11 games, the last win coming Feb. 2. It lasted so long that Drew Gooden, acquired in a trade over a month ago, had yet to win a road game with his new team.
``It's my first road win here so I'm happy about that,'' he said.
Craig Smith scored a season-high 25 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the way for the Clippers, who trailed by as many as 11 in the second half before using a big run to take the lead.
``Much needed. Much needed,'' veteran guard Baron Davis said. ``It was great. Hopefully it gives us a lot of confidence for the next game going forward. It was definitely a stepping stone, a learning period and I was just proud of my teammates. We didn't really turn the ball over and we got good shots.''
The short-handed Rockets were without Shane Battier and Kevin Martin, who sat out because of a sore left shoulder.
The Rockets led by one point with about seven minutes remaining before Los Angeles scored five straight points to go on top 80-76. Houston hit two free throws before Eric Gordon scored five consecutive points to push the lead to 85-78.
``They started off strong that first quarter but we stayed with it, stayed strong,'' Gooden said. ``They ran out of gas and we took advantage of that.''
Houston cut the lead to three points on a 3-pointer by Trevor Ariza with about two minutes left, but Smith made a free throw followed by a jump shot by Davis to make it 92-86 with less than a minute remaining.
``Tough loss,'' Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. ``Our guys played hard. We just had some breakdowns in the fourth quarter.''
A 3-pointer by Davis with 17 seconds left made it 95-88, and he turned around and smiled as most of the few fans remaining headed toward the exits.
``It's good to get the win for all the hard work our guys have put in,'' coach Kim Hughes said. ``Baron really bailed us out in the fourth quarter and Craig Smith had a great game.''
The Rockets were led by Ariza and Aaron Brooks, who had 18 points apiece, and Luis Scola added 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Drew Gooden scored 17 points and had 14 rebounds for Los Angeles, Davis scored 16 and Gordon had 14.
Houston used a big run to take an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter. But Los Angeles answered with a 21-8 run to regain the lead, 69-67, with about two minutes left in the quarter.
Ariza said it's difficult to compete when the team is dealing with so many injuries.
``That's the hardest part about this game,'' he said. ``We work ... all season with those guys and they go down. It takes a lot out of you. We know that coming into a game we just got to figure out ways to keep it going.''
Ariza and Smith were both shaken up early in the fourth quarter after a collision as Ariza drove to the basket. Both writhed on the court for a couple of minutes before getting up and slowly heading to the bench. Ariza was called for an offensive foul on the play.
Both players returned after a few minutes on the bench.
The Rockets used a 16-4 run to open the second half and turn a 1-point deficit into a 59-48 lead with about six minutes left in the third quarter. Three-pointers by Ariza and Chase Budinger fueled that run in a span where Los Angeles missed six shots and had three turnovers.
The Clippers got within four points early in the second quarter after a 12-6 run made it 28-24. Los Angeles then tied it four times in the next few minutes and finally went ahead, 42-40, on a layup by Gooden with about two minutes left in the first half. The Clippers led 44-43 at halftime.
It was tied 12-all in the first quarter before Houston went on a 10-0 run, capped by a rim-rattling dunk by Ariza, to take a 22-12 lead with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.
NOTES: Ariza tied a career high with eight assists. ... Budinger made his third career start on Thursday in place of Martin. ... Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams, the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, watched the game from a courtside seat. ... DeAndre Jordan, who grew up in Houston and played a season at Texas A&M, had seven points and eight rebounds for the Clippers. ... With Thursday's performance, Scola has 30 double-doubles this season.