HOUSTON — Blake Griffin had 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists for his second straight triple-double to lift the Chris Paul-less Los Angeles Clippers to a 117-101 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
In the East, Derrick Rose scored 25 points and Pau Gasol added 21 as the Chicago Bulls beat the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers 99-92 in the first game of their semifinal series.
Houston scored five straight points to cut the lead to one with about 7 1/2 minutes left. Matt Barnes then made two 3-pointers in a 12-0 run to give the Clippers a comfortable 101-88 lead and they coasted to the victory.
Paul, who has a strained left hamstring, missed his first game of the season. But Jamal Crawford had 21 points and Barnes added 20 for the Clippers.
��Without Chris, everybody has to step up,�� Griffin said. ��But it’s not one person’s job, it’s everybody’s job. And if you look at the stat sheet tonight, it was everybody.��
Griffin has had three triple-doubles so far this postseason.
Houston was well-rested after having six days off after beating Dallas in five games. The Clippers showed no signs of fatigue despite having only about 48 hours to get ready for this series after eliminating defending champion San Antonio in Game 7 on Saturday.
Dwight Howard led Houston with 22 points and James Harden added 20.
In Cleveland, Rose helped the Bulls swipe home-court advantage from the Cavaliers, who were missing starters Kevin Love and J.R. Smith.
Finally fully healthy after dealing with injuries all season, the Bulls are peaking at the perfect time. Coming off a 54-point win over Milwaukee to wrap up its opening-round series, Chicago took control from the start and withstood a late Cleveland comeback to hand the Cavaliers just their second loss in 24 home games.
Jimmy Butler added 20 points and banked in a contested jumper with 30 seconds left as the Bulls closed it out.
Rose has missed more than 180 games because of injuries over the past four seasons and is savoring every moment back in the postseason.
��I just appreciate everything,�� he said, ��getting back on the floor, my fans, every aspect of basketball. It’s allowed me to change my life and my family’s life. I owe so much to this sport.��
Kyrie Irving scored 30 points and LeBron James added 19 points and 15 rebounds for Cleveland, playing its first game since Love was lost for the remainder of the postseason with a shoulder injury. Smith has also been suspended for two games for striking Boston’s Jae Crowder in the face in the first round.