The Rockets will play Utah in the first round for the second straight season. Just like last year, the Jazz earned the No. 4 seed by winning their division, but Houston has the home-court edge because of a better overall record.
"We were counted out multiple times this year and no one even gave us a chance, not even close, of clinching home court," said forward Shane Battier. "It really is an amazing regular-season accomplishment and I'm very proud."
The extra home game didn't do the Rockets any good last season -- Utah won the series in seven games.
The backup point guard added 15 points and five rebounds against the Clippers while the Rockets improved to 22-2 in their last 24 home games.
Jackson started for the second straight game in place of Rafer Alston, who strained his right hamstring against Denver on Sunday. Alston said he would likely miss Houston's first two playoff games.
By now, the Rockets are used to adversity. They played the last third of the season without injured Yao Ming, without Tracy McGrady for 16 games, and still reached the team's highest win total since the 1996-97 season.
"Considering all the stuff we've been through this year," McGrady said, "for us to put ourselves in a great position with home-court advantage, that's a fabulous job on our part. This team stayed with it."
By the second half, they looked like they were just ready for the season to end.
"This was not at all what we expected," Maggette said. "A lot of injuries hurt this team."
The Rockets stayed in the race for the No. 3 spot in the West until losing their last two games to Denver and Utah. They never trailed against the Clippers, though, starting 10-for-17 from the field and building a 25-10 lead. Scola hit his first four shots and a free throw, while Battier and Jackson sank 3-pointers during Houston's opening burst.
The Clippers missed 14 of their first 21 shots and trailed 35-17 after one quarter.
"I think we wanted to set the tone going into the playoffs this weekend," Jackson said. "We definitely didn't want to take these guys for granted."
The Rockets' starters rested on the bench as the second quarter began and Los Angeles went on a 13-6 spurt to cut the lead to 11.
Houston's starting lineup returned and the Rockets retook control, stretching the lead to 58-42 by halftime. Scola had 12 points and six rebounds in the first half and the Rockets shot 51 percent (24-of-47).
Maggette scored 18 points in 17 first-half minutes for the Clippers.
The Utah-San Antonio game was just starting when the Rockets and Clippers came out for the second half, but the Rockets stayed focused on the task at hand.
"We were just worried about ourselves," Jackson said. "We've got to worry about taking care of our business and we knew that if we won, we would probably have home court."
Los Angeles cut the deficit to 10 midway through the third quarter, but Scola scored back-to-back baskets to push Houston's lead to 66-52. McGrady took a hard foul from Brand on a drive with 5:06 left, then hit two free throws to restore the halftime lead.
Maggette scored only four points in the third quarter and Houston led 78-60 heading to the fourth.
"This was not at all what I wanted," said Brand, who missed 74 games with a surgically repaired left Achilles' tendon. "I wanted to come back and get some wins, but the other teams wore us down a little bit."
Houston led 80-62 with just under eight minutes left when Coach Rick Adelman started pulling his starters. Rookie point guard Aaron Brooks, the shortest Rocket at 6-foot, had the best highlight of the closing minutes, racing for a one-handed dunk near the 7-minute mark.
Houston won 35 of its last 43 regular-season games. The Clippers dropped their last seven games and 26 of their last 30.
|Credit Rick Adelman. He wraps his first regular season in Houston by earning 55 victories. (AP)|
|L.A. Clippers (23-59)||17||25||18||15||75|
|Houston (55-27) «||35||23||20||15||93|
|LAC:C. Maggette 22 Pts
LAC:E. Brand 12 Reb
LAC:B. Knight 2 Ast
|HOU:L. Scola 22 Pts
HOU:L. Scola 10 Reb
HOU:T. McGrady 11 Ast
|Players of the Game|
James Harden Rockets Name and Number T-Shirt - Red Shop Now!
|E. Brand, PF||41||5-14||8-8||12||1||3||18|
|C. Mobley, SG||37||3-8||0-0||4||1||1||6|
|S. Parker, PG||29||4-8||0-0||2||2||2||9|
|A. Thornton, SF||29||1-8||0-0||5||2||3||2|
|B. Knight, PG||16||1-3||0-0||1||2||0||2|
|C. Maggette, SF||36||8-18||4-5||6||2||4||22|
|J. Powell, SF||20||5-9||0-0||10||1||0||10|
|N. Fazekas, PF||19||1-4||2-2||4||0||2||4|
|Q. Ross, SF||8||0-1||0-0||0||0||1||0|
|D. Dickau, PG||3||0-0||2-2||1||1||0||2|
|M. Williams, SF||3||0-2||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|T. Thomas, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. Livingston, PG||Did Not Play|
|C. Kaman, C||Did Not Play|
|P. Davis, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|T. McGrady, SG||33||2-11||3-4||2||11||0||7|
|S. Battier, SF||33||3-10||0-0||6||1||1||8|
|L. Scola, PF||32||10-14||2-4||10||4||3||22|
|B. Jackson, PG||31||6-14||0-0||5||3||1||15|
|D. Mutombo, C||20||3-5||2-2||9||1||1||8|
|C. Hayes, PF||23||3-6||0-2||5||2||5||6|
|A. Brooks, PG||18||3-8||2-2||1||1||2||8|
|L. Head, PG||15||1-8||0-0||0||1||0||2|
|S. Novak, SF||15||3-7||0-0||2||0||1||9|
|M. Harris, SF||10||2-5||0-0||4||1||0||4|
|C. Landry, PF||10||2-4||0-0||3||0||0||4|
|L. Woods, C||1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|R. Alston, PG||Did Not Play|
|S. Francis, PG||Did Not Play|
|Y. Ming, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|