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             === Clippers ride strong start to win over Rockets ===
 Los  Angeles,  CA (Sports  Network) -  Blake Griffin tallied  20 points and 11
 rebounds  as  the Los  Angeles Clippers made  it look easy  in taking a 106-96
 victory over a Houston Rockets team playing without James Harden.
 The  Clippers  got off to  an impressive start, falling  just shy of 50 points
 before  the  end of the first  quarter. Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler each
 contributed 19 points to help Los Angeles to its third win in a row.
 Chris  Paul  added 10  points and 11  assists for the  Clippers, who will play
 their Staples Center co-tenants in the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday prior to
 the All-Star break.
 Without  their leading scorer, the Rockets fell into a large deficit early and
 were  unable to  recover. Harden, who injured his ankle on Tuesday against the
 Golden  State Warriors,  was a late scratch after experiencing soreness during
 Chandler  Parsons  scored 17 points, while  Jeremy Lin and James Anderson each
 donated 14 in the setback.
 "We  didn't  come out  ready to play,  we had no  ball pressure," said Rockets
 coach Kevin McHale. "They pressured us a lot and we weren't really poised with
 the ball. We won't win when we don't defend."
 The  Clippers got  rolling early,  dropping a  46-spot on  the Rockets  in the
 opening quarter before totaling 69 points by halftime.
 Los  Angeles  had a sensational  77.3 shooting  percentage in the first, where
 Butler  scored  17 of  his points  by knocking  down 7-of-9  from the field --
 including  a trio  of triples without a  miss -- to help the Clippers to 46-28
 lead heading into the second.
 Despite  holding Los  Angeles to  just 23  points in  the second  quarter, the
 Rockets  dug  themselves too  deep a  hole and  still trailed by double-digits
 throughout  the period, and  as it would turn out, for the rest of the game as
 After their margin was reduced at 58-47, the Clippers upped their advantage to
 20  by  the break following an  11-2 push highlighted  by a pair of Billups 3-
 pointers. He made 4-of-7 from long distance for the night.
 "I'm  doing better but  I'm not quite in game shape," said Billups, who played
 19  minutes in just  his sixth game of the season. "It will take a couple more
 weeks. Guys focused tonight, with two games before the break we wanted to play
 The  Clippers  converted 9-of-16 from  3-point range  in the opening half, but
 made shot just 4-for-16 from long distance over the final two periods.
 Nevertheless,  Los Angeles  cruised the  entire second  half, only  seeing its
 margin reduced to 10 points in the final 30 seconds of play.
                                   Game Notes
 Los  Angeles  has defeated Houston  in five  straight contests ... The Rockets
 failed  to score 100  points for the first time in 11 games ... Jamal Crawford
 scored  13  points of  the bench for  the Clippers ...  After making his first
 three 3-pointers, Butler missed his final five attempts from long distance ...
 The  Clippers  shot 49.3 percent  from the field,  while the Rockets made just
 43.9 percent from the floor.
 02/14 01:45:21 ET