HOUSTON (Sporting Alert) — The Los Angeles Clippers will be hoping star point Chris Paul will be available for Game 1 of the Western Conference semis against the Houston Rockets on Monday night.
Check out Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets live on television and online. TNT Network will broadcast both games starting at 6 pm CT with the Cavs-Bulls battle followed by the Clippers-Rockets matchup. Both games will also be streaming live on TNT Overtime.
On to the next one: shootaround for tonight’s game against the Rockets is underway. pic.twitter.com/DwaDXhDLqX
— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) May 4, 2015
Paul suffered a left hamstring strain during Game 7 of the first round series win over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday and has been listed as questionable for the first game of the Rockets series.
The All-Star point guard, who played through the pain and scored 27 points, including the winning bucket against the Spurs, is desperate to take the court on Monday, but head coach Doc Rivers says he will not play if his hamstring remains a bother.
Paul was seen going through a light shootaround with the team during Monday’s session and Rivers will wait until game-time to make the call.
“He’s going to go through shootaround and we’ll figure it out afterwards,” Rivers said. “You have to be careful. If there’s any risk, he won’t play, I can tell you that right now. I just don’t know yet.”
Rivers says he will talk to Paul, who is averaging 19.1 points, 10.2 assists, 4.6 and 1.9 steals per game this season, to see how he feels before tip-off, but added that head Clippers athletic trainer Jasen Powell will be the one making the final call.Chris Paul and James Harden: NBA Playoffs. ESPN Photo
“I’ll ask him (Paul) eventually but I’m really going through J.P.,” Rivers said, speaking about to Powell. “I really don’t like getting involved with that.
“I don’t ever want the player to feel the pressure of a coach. I swear they’ll tell you. They’ll tell you if they can play or if they can’t, that’s my theory, and the trainer will too and that’s the guy I listen to the most.”
He added: “With Chris, you’ll listen to the trainer more. Hamstrings are tricky injuries and the MRI came out very good but you still have to be very careful because those are things even if you feel good and you go out there and hurt and you’re out.
“You have to be careful with those.”
The Clippers will be looking to Blake Griffin again to provide the main punch in this series, following his impressive performances in the seven-game series against San Antonio Spurs. He had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his second triple-double in the first round series in Game 7 on Saturday night.
But the Houston Rockets, who beat the Dallas Mavericks 4-1 in their first round series, enter this game as the favourites to win the series and pundits expected James Harden to dominate again.
Harden, who average 27.4 points and 7.0 rebounds this season, ended the Mavericks series averaging 28.4 points, 7.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals.
Rivers also believes that big man Dwight Howard, if he gets going will cause his team major problems as he’s always difficult to defend.
An interesting note from the stats gurus at ESPN as revealed that “any time the Rockets have won a best-of-7 series in 5 games or fewer, they have at least reached the NBA Finals.”
The other game on the fixture for Monday night is the Eastern Conference semi-final battle between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will be keeping a very close eye on a certain LeBron James and indeed Kyrie Irving, who averaged 23.3 points against the Celtics in his first playoff series.
In the four game series sweep over the Boston Celtics, James averaged 27.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.5 blocks.
“The only thing you can do with him is try to make him work for his points,” Thibodeau said of James who is yet to lose to the Bulls in the playoffs. “You can’t really give him a steady diet of anything.
“You have to mix it up on him. The thing that makes him who he is he can beat you a lot of different ways. It’s not only his scoring. It’s his passing. He’s seen every type of defense there is.” He added: “Any team that has LeBron and Kyrie, you’re not short-handed.”
At the same time, the veteran coach will also know that his main-man Derrick Rose must also get into a groove early to help make things interesting for Cavs.
Rose, who had an up-and-down series against the Milwaukee Bucks in their first round campaign, is averaging 19 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals in this postseason heading into Monday night’s game.
— NBA (@NBA) May 4, 2015
He shot 38.1 percent from the field and averaged 4.4 turnovers per game and Thibodeau believes the 2011 regular season MVP needs more game time to get back into a consistent rhythm.
Besides Rose, Chicago will sport the likes of Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Mike Dunleavy in its lineup.
The Cavs will be without All-Star power forward Kevin Love, who is expected to miss the rest of the postseason after he underwent shoulder surgery.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith will also miss Game 1 and 2 of the series as he was slapped with a two-game suspension for striking Boston’s Jae Crowder in the face during Game 4 series-clincher.
This opens the door for Iman Shumpert to move into the starting lineup for Smith.