Rapid Reaction: Clippers 106, Rockets 96

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
10:20
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro didn't even want to talk about it.

He has often said the first game back from a long trip is arguably the hardest game of the trip. It's almost like a continuation in which you are still trying to get adjusted to being back home and playing in front of your home crowd.

"Let's not even have that mentality right now," Del Negro said. "We got to be ready."

The Clippers were more than just ready to start their game against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. They came out with one of the greatest single-quarter performances in franchise history. The Clippers scored 46 points in the first quarter, their largest number in a single period since 1986, and shot 77.3 percent from the field and 75 percent from beyond the arc.

Although the Clippers cooled down somewhat after that torrid start, they never looked back after taking a 23-point lead in the second quarter and went on to beat the Rockets, 106-96.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Billups is back

This hasn't been an easy season for Chauncey Billups. In fact, it has been a hard past 12 months for the Clippers guard. He had played in only five games before Wednesday. He came back from a ruptured Achilles tendon to play in three games in December before being sidelined again because of peroneal tendinitis in his left foot until last week. But against Houston, Billups finally played like the player Clippers fans have been waiting to see for the past year. Billups played 20 minutes and scored 19 points, and opened and closed the game alongside Chris Paul. It was the most points Billups had scored in game since Feb. 6, 2012, when he scored 18 points in Orlando, which was the night he tore his Achilles.

Butler did it

Maybe all Billups and Caron Butler needed was a little rest. After both players sat out Monday's game in Philadelphia because of sore lower backs, they responded with solid performances. Butler scored 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting and hit three of eight shots from beyond the arc. Butler helped set the tone for the game early, scoring 17 of his points in the first quarter and hitting all three of his 3-point attempts. Butler was active on both ends of the floor and showed what kind of difference he can make when he's healthy, which he hadn't been since the Clippers were in Miami last week.

Coming together

The Clippers have talked for a while about how their team will look when everyone is fully healthy, and Wednesday might have been the first time that has happened all season. The interesting takeaway is that Grant Hill, Ronny Turiaf and Willie Green seem to be the odd men out, depending on the opponent, when everyone is healthy. It's somewhat surprising given the way the three have played at times this season but Del Negro knows he can’t play all 13 players come playoff time and is trying to establish his rotations now toward the end of the season.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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