Forward Blake Griffin scored 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, and the Clippers defeated the Rockets 101-93 Wednesday night before a sellout crowd of 19,258 at Staples Center.
The Clippers (40-20) beat the Rockets for the third straight time this season and made it five in a row over Houston in Los Angeles. The Rockets (39-19) lost for only the second time in 12 games.
"I take a lot of pride in my defense, especially against a guy like James Harden," said Collison, a guard who came off the bench to score 17 of his 19 points in the second quarter. "(Harden is) capable of going for 40 like he did last night. You can't stop him; you just got to make it tough for him on every shot."
Collison, who also had five assists, shot 8-for-14, including 3-for-5 on 3-pointers. He stepped in for guard Jamal Crawford, who exited in the first half with a strained left calf.
Harden, an All-Star guard, scored a season-high 43 points Tuesday night in Houston's 129-103 rout of the Sacramento Kings. A day later, he scored 18 points and committed six turnovers. Harden missed 10 of his 16 shots from the field and five of his six 3-point attempts. He managed just five points in the second half.
"If we're going to play Darren Collison and Chris (Paul), we are really small, but we are really fast," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "So we had to turn the game into a ball-pressure game with those guys in. I thought what it did was shorten the (shot) clock for (Houston). They were getting their stuff with 10 seconds left on the clock as opposed to 18 seconds.
"Even with Dwight (Howard), when they got it to him, he had to try to score quick. There wasn't enough time to do anything else, and I thought that helped us."
Howard, who was booed each time he touched the ball, led the Rockets with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Reserve forward Jordan Hamilton had 16 points, but forward Chandler Parson managed just seven points on 3-of-13 shooting.
"I couldn't make a shot," Harden said. "As a team, we couldn't get it going in general. The wings couldn't make a shot. Jordan was the only one who could knock down a consistent shot. It's a tough night for us. We just have to bounce back."
Twenty Houston turnovers resulted in 30 points for the Clippers, compared to 13 Los Angeles miscues that led to 10 points for the Rockets.
Center DeAndre Jordan contributed 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for the Pacific Division-leading Clippers. Paul, Los Angeles' point guard, scored 14 points and handed out nine assists.
The Rockets took a 48-46 lead at the break despite 11 first-half turnovers and 41.9 percent shooting (18 of 43). Although Los Angeles committed just six miscues, it managed to hit just 35.8 percent (19 of 53) of its shots before halftime.
Overall, the Clippers shot 44.1 percent (41 of 93) compared to 44.2 percent for Houston (34 of 77).
After Hamilton's 3-point basket tied the score at 76 with 10:26 left in the game, the Clippers took the lead for good on consecutive 3-pointers by Collison and forward Jared Dudley for an 82-76 advantage.
Crawford left the game in the first half with a left calf strain and did not return. Crawford shot 2-for-10 from the floor and scored eight points in 16 minutes. He will be re-evaluated Thursday.
Crawford's injury could enhance the Clippers' pursuit of forward Danny Granger, who received a buyout Wednesday from the Philadelphia 76ers.
"Obviously, a guy with that talent, you want to look at. There's no doubt about that," Rivers said before the game. "I don't think it's really up to us. I think it's up to Danny."
The Clippers are believed to be front-runners for Granger since they can offer him a starting position, particularly with guard J.J. Redick out due to a bulging disk. Now with Crawford possibly being on the shelf, the need for Granger could be greater.
Forward Glen Davis, who got a buyout from the Orlando Magic and signed with the Clippers on Monday, made his debut with Los Angeles late in the third quarter. Davis finished with two points, two rebounds and two blocks in five minutes.
The clubs meet again March 29 in Houston.
NOTES: Houston won six of its past seven road games before Wednesday's loss. The other blemish was a 102-99 loss in overtime to the Golden State Warriors. ... The Rockets capped their five-game West Coast swing against the Clippers. They went 3-2. Next is a two-game homestand, Saturday against the Detroit Pistons and Tuesday against the Miami Heat. ... Los Angeles visits the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.