Clippers fall to Rockets for second straight loss

HOUSTON (AP) — Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons
and Francisco Garcia scored 15 points apiece to lead the Houston
Rockets to a 98-81 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday

Houston was playing without shooting
guard and leading scorer James Harden, who missed his third game of the
season with a right ankle sprain, but the Rockets had all the right
answers in his absence.

Harden, who played 26 minutes and scored
seven points in a 103-94 road loss to Memphis on Friday night, ranks
fifth in the league with 26.0 points per game.

Garcia had his best game as a Rocket,
hitting 3 of 5 shots from beyond the arc as a spark off the bench to
help Houston snap a two-game losing streak.

Lin and Parsons combined for 13 points
in Houston’s pivotal third quarter, when the Rockets outscored Los
Angeles 30-13. The rally gave Houston a 22-point lead heading into the
fourth quarter, and Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro had seen enough.

Point guard Chris Paul was the only
Clippers starter to play in the final quarter, as Del Negro benched
Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler and Willie Green in the

For the second consecutive game, the
Clippers failed to secure their franchise-record 50th victory. The
Clippers tied the 1974-75 team record for wins in a season by beating
New Orleans on Wednesday.

Paul led the Clippers with 19 points, seven assists and three steals.

Los Angeles has lost three of its last four games, allowing at least 98 points in each loss.

The Rockets frustrated the Clippers in
the second quarter as Griffin and Jamal Crawford both drew technical
fouls. Garcia hit 3 of 4 shots from beyond the arc in the first half to
lead the Rockets with 13 first-half points and a 55-50 lead.

Rockets center Omer Asik registered his 30th double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds, adding two blocks.

Making his first NBA start in place of
Harden, Rockets guard James Anderson scored seven points and added five
rebounds, two steals and two assists. Rockets forward Greg Smith had
nine points and eight rebounds, also in his first professional start.

The loss dropped Los Angeles to fifth
in the Western Conference as Memphis moved into the fourth spot with a
win over Minnesota.

Houston finished March with a 9-4
record after going 6-5 in February. On Monday, the Rockets host Orlando,
while the Clippers host Indiana.

Harden sprained his right ankle in a Feb. 12 road victory at Golden
State and did not play the following game. A similar injury to the same
ankle also caused him to miss a Dec. 10 meeting against San Antonio. …
Clippers forward Barnes left the game in the fourth quarter with a left
ankle sprain.