LOS ANGELES – This may not last, but while it does, there’s no hiding this fact about the Clippers: They can score points. Lots and lots of points.
On Monday night at Staples Center, they ran up 137 against the Houston Rockets — the most by a Clippers team since 2009, when they scored 140 against the New York Knicks.
It’s a frenetic pace, but it works. And although the Clippers have given up 100 or more points in every game this season, their defense is part of the reason for their success.
They beat the previously unbeaten Rockets and new center Dwight Howard 137-118, their third victory in a row. They had a season-high 42 points in the first quarter, scored 78 in the first half to tie a team record since the franchise moved to L.A., and held guard James Harden to 15 points and 0 for 7 from the three-point line.
“Offensively, we played with great pace,” forward Blake Griffin said. “We got the ball out quick, we scored in transition, we scored in the half court. That’s what we want.”
It’s clearly working. All five starters, plus reserves Jamal Crawford and scored in double figures, and Chris Paul had his fourth consecutive double-double, finishing with 23 points and 17 assists in 33 minutes.
Guard J.J. Redick had a season-high 23 points, 19 in the first half when the Clippers pulled away from a team considered to be among the Western Conference’s elite.
The Clippers, who shot 52 percent for the game, lead the NBA in scoring average (119 points per game) but are also giving up a league-high 112.5. At the moment, they can live with that.
“I think our defense is pretty good,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s what’s getting us the leads, and then we break down.
“We have to be a better defensive team than we are, and we have to continue to play the offense.”
Howard’s return to L.A. wasn’t particularly pleasant. He was booed during pregame introductions and booed every time he touched the ball. He picked up three fouls in the first quarter, was called for traveling twice and finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds.
Asked about the boos, Howard said, “I don’t care. They can boo me a million times. I’ll still play.”
The Rockets scored 41 points in the second quarter but never got closer than nine points in the second half.
“It’s funny,” Paul said. “We haven’t held a team under 100 in four games, and I promise you our defense is better than it looks. I think what has to be better is our transition defense. We rely on our principles, but it’s about spurts.”
Offensively, there are no concerns. The Clippers are shooting 50.3 percent from the floor, tied for first in the league, and moving the ball well. They made 15 of 38 three-point attempts, including 6 of 11 by Crawford, who scored 21.
“I like to play with an up-tempo style,” Paul said, “constantly running and moving, which is great because have guys who do that. We’ve got J.J., who doesn’t stop moving. It’s fun basketball, and when we get stops, eyes light up because we have so many options.”