(The Sports Xchange) - James Harden and Dwight Howard delivered when it mattered most for the Houston Rockets, who averted playoff elimination with a 124-103 home win over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Five of the Western Conference semi-finals on Tuesday.
Harden posted 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, while Howard added 20 points and 15 rebounds as the Rockets forced a return trip to Los Angeles for Game Six on Thursday by thriving in the paint and playing with defensive vigor.
Los Angeles still leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 but if the Rockets can even the series on Thursday, Game Seven would be back in Houston on Sunday.
The Rockets matched their Game Three total for points in the paint (36) by halftime and finished with 64 as they took full advantage of DeAndre Jordan's foul trouble, with the Clippers center picking up three by the break while logging just nine first-half minutes.
Jordan finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds but was largely neutralized as a rim protector. Forward Blake Griffin paced the Clippers with 30 points and 16 rebounds, while guard Chris Paul added 22 points and 10 assists.
The guard trio of J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, instrumental in two blowout wins in Los Angeles, shot a combined 8-for-33.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale tweaked his lineup, starting forward Josh Smith in place of Terrence Jones. Smith finished with nine points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Jones added 12 points and five boards.
(Editing by Cameron French/John O'Brien)