(SportsNetwork.com) - Western Conference powers collide when Dwight Howard and James Harden lead the undefeated Houston Rockets into battle against Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers Monday at Staples Center.
The Rockets and Clippers have high expectations for this season, while Houston pushed all of its chips to the middle of the table by acquiring Howard to team up with Harden. The move has worked and the Rockets aim for a fourth straight win after handing the Utah Jazz a 104-93 loss on Saturday.
A strong second half by the Rockets in the opener of a three-game road trip propelled them to victory and actually Chandler Parsons scored a team-best 24 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Harden had 23 points and Howard chipped in 15 and nine boards. Jeremy Lin netted 20 points in the win.
The Rockets trailed by as many as 19 late in the second quarter, but shot 58 percent (21-of-36) from the field in the second half. They had a 64-37 advantage over the last two quarters and are 3-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
"This is a big win for us and it wasn't pretty," said Parsons. "It shows a lot about our team that when we got down so big we didn't give up."
Houston will close out the road trip Tuesday at Portland and was 6-0 back in 1996-97.
Los Angeles has recorded back-to-back victories since a season-opening loss to the Lakers and posted a 110-101 win at Sacramento on Friday. The Clippers, who lead the NBA with 113.0 points per game, received 26 points and 10 assists from Paul, while Griffin tallied 20 points.
Paul is third in the NBA in scoring (27.7 ppg).
Jamal Crawford provided 18 points off the bench and J.J. Redick posted 13 for the Clippers, who shot 50 percent from the floor and made 12-of-24 3-pointers.
"It was a track meet. It was physical too," New Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
The Clippers last topped 103 points in a season's first three games in the opening week of the 1988-89 season. They have won five straight at home and last season set the franchise record by winning 13 games in a row on their home floor.
After hosting the Rockets, the Clippers will visit Orlando, Miami and Houston, which lost two of three to Los Angeles last season. The Clippers have won six of eight meetings with the Rockets and the last four as the host.