Clippers in playoffs with 118-107 win over Rockets

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HOUSTON (AP) - Things did not look good for the Los Angeles Clippers early in Saturday night’s game against Houston.

All-Star Blake Griffin went down with back spasms in the first quarter and when Glen Davis threw a temper tantrum early in the second, they were trailing by 13 points.

But instead of crumbling, the Clippers rose to the challenge as Chris Paul got hot and helped Los Angeles erase the deficit by halftime and hold on for the 118-107 win.

Paul had 30 points and 12 assists and Jamal Crawford added 22 points to help the Clippers clinch their franchise-record third straight playoff appearance.

Coach Doc Rivers was pleased at how his team responded to the adversity.

“We’re here to win games and our guys are growing up, they’re mature and it was great,” Rivers said.

That’s something that Matt Barnes believes was lacking from the team a year ago.

“We knew last year that was our weakness, that we were mentally weak and I think that we put a collective focus on being mentally tough and we’ve (come) a long way this year,” he said.

The loss broke a five-game winning streak for Houston, which was without two of its starters as Dwight Howard and Pat Beverley sat out with injuries.

“You can’t use that as an excuse,” Houston’s Chandler Parsons. “Everybody goes through injuries. They didn’t have their best player either … We have to learn to win games without guys and hope they can get back as soon as possible.”

The Clippers trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half before using two big runs to take the lead. Houston stuck around for most of the second half before consecutive 3s by Barnes and Darren Collison made it 114-101 late in the fourth.

Griffin, whom Rivers said is day to day, didn’t return after leaving in the first quarter and Davis missed the second half for disciplinary reasons because of his second-quarter incident.

James Harden led the Rockets with 32 points, and Chandler Parsons had 28. DeAndre Jordan added 20 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks for the Clippers, who swept Houston this season and are third in the Western Conference.

Jordan and the Clippers didn’t make a big deal out of securing a playoff berth.

“It’s another goal that’s accomplished,” he said. “It’s definitely not the only thing we want to accomplish this season, but it’s a start. Now we’ve just got to keep building and win as many games as possible and hit our stride when they playoffs start.”

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