Rockets 96, Clippers 83
Like most NBA fans, Chuck Hayes marvels at some of the acrobatic dunks he's seen Blake Griffin pull off this season.
Houston's best low-post defender was determined to keep Griffin from adding another one on Wednesday night.
Griffin had 14 points and 11 rebounds. But he went 5 for 16 from the field and coughed up three turnovers with Hayes smothering him all night.
''I'm a fan of what he's doing,'' said Hayes, who also had 11 boards. ''From a fan standpoint, I'm entertained, just like everybody else. As a competitor, I'm telling myself, 'He's not doing that on me.'''
Hayes, the NBA's shortest starting center at 6-foot-6, flustered New York center Amare Stoudemire (five turnovers) a week ago. As he did leading up to his game against the Knicks star, Hayes studied video highlights of Griffin and broke down his weaknesses.
''It's unbelievable what he's doing,'' Hayes said. ''At the same time, as I'm watching it, I'm also scouting him. I know exactly what not to let him do.''
Griffin produced his lowest point total since he scored 13 in a win over Sacramento on Dec. 6. He was held under 20 points for only the sixth time since Dec. 3, but avoided giving much credit to Hayes.
''I just missed a lot of shots,'' Griffin said. ''I didn't have great energy and just missed shots. You know you're missing shots, but you're just searching for that next one to go in.''
Randy Foye scored a season-high 20 points and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who shot 36.4 percent (32 of 88) and mustered a season-low 10 points in the final quarter while dropping their fourth straight road game.
''We just couldn't put the ball in the basket,'' coach Vinny Del Negro said. ''We didn't shoot well enough to put some pressure on them.''
The 6-foot-10 Griffin made his first basket on his 101st dunk of the season, an easy one-hander following an offensive rebound with 7:40 left in the first quarter.
But with the bulky Hayes pushing him away from the basket, Griffin was quiet the rest of the half, going 2 for 7 from the field and grabbing four rebounds.
''If I keep my body on him and go strength-for-strength, muscle-for-muscle,'' Hayes said, ''I have a chance.''
The Clippers' reserves rallied from seven points down to take a 44-42 lead with five minutes left in the half. Both starting lineups were back on the floor for the last four minutes, and Hayes' layup with 8 seconds remaining gave Houston a 55-52 lead.
Jordan threw down a one-handed dunk with 8:35 left in the third quarter, off Griffin's assist, to cut the Rockets' lead to 59-58. The teams combined for eight turnovers in the first eight minutes of the sloppy third, and the Clippers built a 70-65 advantage when Foye set a new season high with consecutive driving layups.
Houston went 4 for 19 from the field in the third, but only trailed 73-70 because the Clippers gave away six turnovers in the quarter.
Rockets reserve guard Chase Budinger drove for a dunk 15 seconds into the fourth, and Courtney Lee swished a jumper from the wing to put Houston back in front.
The Rockets extended their lead to nine as the Clippers missed their first 15 shots in the last quarter, many of them uncontested tries from close range. Baron Davis ended the Clippers' drought with a short jumper with 5:43 remaining.
''That's huge,'' Lowry said. ''We weren't making shots, but having them not make shots definitely helped us during that stretch.''
Houston rookie Patrick Patterson flipped in a hook shot and Brooks drove for a layup to extend the Rockets' lead into double digits for the first time at 86-75.
NOTES: The Rockets have won 11 of the last 14 meetings with the Clippers in Houston. ... The Clippers were outrebounded (50-44) for the first time in eight games. ... Griffin has 37 doubles-doubles this season. ... Griffin wore a black sleeve on his left arm to protect the elbow he hurt on a hard foul by Dallas' Brendan Haywood on Tuesday night. When asked about his elbow after the game, Griffin said it was all right. ... The Rockets held an opponent under 100 points for the third time since Dec. 22 - when they beat the Clippers 97-92 at the Staples Center.