Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul will not play in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets on Monday night, Clippers coach Doc Rivers announced during his pre-game media availability about an hour and a half before tipoff.
Paul suffered a strained left hamstring during the first quarter of Game 7 in the Clippers’ first-round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night:
Paul returned midway through the second quarter and put on an absolutely brilliant performance, scoring 27 points with six assists, two steals and two rebounds, and making a game-winning, series-clinching runner over the outstretched arm of Tim Duncan to seal a 111-109 win that eliminated San Antonio and moved the Clippers on to a second-round matchup with the second-seeded Rockets.
Paul joked after the game that he would “be living with” the Clippers’ training staff between the final buzzer Saturday and Monday night’s tipoff in Houston, but evidently, his hamstring hasn’t progressed enough for Rivers to feel comfortable plugging him back into the lineup on such short rest:
Chris Paul is not playing, per Doc Rivers “I just don’t think he’s healthy enough to play,” Rivers said
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) May 5, 2015
“I don’t think the risk is worth it. …They were going to have change my mind.” – Doc Rivers
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) May 5, 2015
Doc Rivers said Chris Paul would play if it was Game 7 but he wanted to be more cautious with the short turnaround for Game 1.
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) May 5, 2015
Rivers did say he expects Paul to play in this series, and perhaps as early as Wednesday’s Game 2. But he won’t go on Monday, dealing a major blow to an already-thin Clippers squad that would love to steal one of the first two games in Texas to gain home-court advantage in the series.
Rivers said he had yet to decide on who will start in Paul’s stead. His son, backup guard Austin Rivers, could be one likely choice, allowing the Clips to continue bringing top reserve Jamal Crawford off the bench in the sixth-man role in which he has thrived in recent years.
Austin Rivers averaged 5.4 points, 1.1 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 14.1 minutes per game in Round 1, shooting 41 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from 3-point range, and came through with a huge performance — 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting — in a Game 4 win in San Antonio that kept the Clippers season alive.
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