HOUSTON (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers entered their game against the Houston Rockets without star point guard Chris Paul and by halftime they were down another point guard and coach Doc Rivers.
James Harden had a triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists and the Rockets rolled to a 140-116 victory Friday night.
Clippers guard Austin Rivers and father/coach Doc Rivers were both ejected in the second quarter as Los Angeles dropped its fifth straight.
“(The Rockets) played great and it’s a shame that how beautiful they played will be marred by this crap,” Doc Rivers said. “Because they played great and we didn’t play well.”
It’s the seventh triple-double this season for Harden and his third straight 30-point game. Montrezl Harrell added a career-high 29 points to help Houston win its third in a row.
Raymond Felton had a season-high 26 points to lead the Clippers.
The Rockets had allowed what was once a 25-point lead to dwindle to six points early in the fourth quarter before scoring the next 13 points to make it 126-104 with just under seven minutes remaining. Harrell made six points to power that run and the Clippers went more than four minutes without scoring.
“They made some big shots and tough shots and got it to six,” Harden said. “We handled our business, made some shots and got some stops when we needed to and finished the game off.”
The Rockets had an 18-point lead later in the quarter when Harden hit Harrell with a bounce pass and he made the layup before crashing to the court to give Harden his 10th assist.
The younger Rivers was tossed after missing a layup and slightly pushing referee J.T. Orr with 6:38 left in the second quarter. He yelled at Orr and waved his arms at him after the ejection and was led off the court by a Clippers employee. When he got to the edge of the court, he tried going back toward the referee and had to be held back by the employee and pulled off the court.
Austin Rivers said the contact with the official was an accident.
“I would never put my hands on a ref. I have never done anything like that in my career and it was frustrating to me because he happened to be right behind me,” Austin Rivers said. “He knows I didn’t touch him like that … he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and unfortunately it cost me the game … and it was a big deal for our team me going down.”
During a timeout a few seconds later, Doc Rivers walked toward where all three referees were standing and began yelling at them. He was then ejected by crew chief Jason Phillips. The Rockets led 59-35 when the elder Rivers was ejected.
Phillips said that Rivers was ejected for using “extreme profanity” while complaining about his son being ejected. But Doc Rivers said that wasn’t the case and that he called the timeout because they saw an official call a foul on a layup Marreese Speights made on the play before the timeout, but didn’t give them the free throw.
“I said: `No you forgot to give us the free throw,”‘ Doc Rivers said. “I said: `Come on you guys don’t know what you’re doing.’ That was it.”
It was the second time the pair has been tossed in the same game after they were both ejected late in a loss to the Washington Wizards on Dec. 18. The coach has been ejected three times this season and it’s the fourth career ejection for his son.
Clippers: J.J Redick returned after missing two games with a sore left hamstring. He had eight points. … DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Rockets: Beverley returned after missing one game with a bruised thigh. … Houston attempted a season-high 43 free throws. … Harrell has scored at least 10 points in four of the last five games. … The Rockets have scored at least 120 points in three straight games and 13 times this season.
Los Angeles assistant coach Sam Cassell was honored as part of a season-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Rockets between the first and second quarters. Cassell was drafted by Houston in 1993 and helped the Rockets to consecutive NBA titles in his first two seasons. A highlight video was played on the Jumbotron along with Cassell’s memories of his time with the Rockets. Cassell received a standing ovation when he was shown on live on the screen and welcomed back to Houston. Clippers coach Doc Rivers shook hands with Cassell after that before Beverley ran over and fist-bumped him before play resumed.
Austin Rivers started Friday with Paul out with a sore left hamstring. Paul missed three games with the problem before returning Wednesday night against New Orleans. He played 31 minutes in the loss and Doc Rivers said Paul experienced some fatigue after that game. It’s unclear how long Paul will sit out.