HOUSTON, TEXAS (REUTERS) - Dwight Howard carried them early and James Harden took over in the fourth quarter as the Houston Rockets rallied past the Los Angeles Clippers for a 115-109 win on Wednesday to tie up their Western Conference semi-final series at 1-1.
Harden scored 32 points and dished out seven assists, while Howard posted 24 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, playing doggedly at both ends despite picking up his fourth foul early in the third quarter.
The Rockets also drained 42-of-64 free throws as they made regular trips to the charity stripe.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin scored 34 points and grabbed 15 rebounds but shot just 2-for-9 from the field in the second half as the Rockets fought back from a nine-point deficit.
Centre DeAndre Jordan added 16 points and 12 rebounds, while guard Jamal Crawford chipped in 19 points, five rebounds and five assists off the bench.
Hot on the heels of a 71-point second half that propelled them to a 1-0 series lead, the Clippers continued their offensive assault against the Rockets in the first half of Game Two.
Griffin was electric, switching roles from facilitator to unstoppable scorer en route to 26 first-half points on just 14 shots. However, by stepping up their defensive efforts, the Rockets worked their way back into contention in the third quarter as Griffin made just one-of-four shots in the period and the Clippers hit only 7-of-24 on the way to 20 points.
Houston centre Howard earned the defensive assignment on Griffin, but the Rockets also scrambled better on the defensive end.
The Rockets scored the final five points of the third quarter, all on free throws, to head to the fourth just 85-83 adrift and Harden stepped up to bag 16 points in the final frame to help Houston pull clear.