Clipppers finally get matchup with Paul against Rockets
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LOS ANGELES -- It took two attempts, but it finally appears that the Los Angeles Clippers will get that chance to face their former point guard.
When the Houston Rockets take the court at Staples Center on Monday night, Chris Paul will be very familiar with the surroundings. Paul, now the quarterback of the Rockets' offense, played six seasons with the Clippers, leading the NBA in either steals, assists, or both, in five of them.
The reunion was first scheduled to happen on Dec. 22 at Houston, but Paul missed that game with a sore left adductor. The Clippers took advantage, rolling to a 128-118 victory that night, shifting gears from a team dependent on defense to a highly-efficient scoring squad.
When the summertime trade of Paul to the Rockets was made, it was widely considered a coup for Houston. After all, they were adding one of the top point guards in the game.
The Clippers got back point guard Patrick Beverley in their haul from Houston, and when Beverley was lost for the season because of a knee injury, after playing in just 11 games, the deal looked even more lopsided.
But the Clippers aren't necessarily complaining. They also received forwards Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrel in the deal, and both have been quality contributors on a team that has been racked with injuries.
L.A. also received Lou Williams, with the sixth-man-of-the-year candidate a major contributor on offense. Williams torched the Golden State Warriors for 50 points in a victory Wednesday and leads the Clippers with 23.1 a game.
"We believe that we can be really good," coach Doc Rivers said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We also understand with all the guys out, we're just trying to hold the fort until they come back. And there's no end in sight right now."
Blake Griffin has recently returned from a knee injury and a concussion, while guard Milos Teodosic is also back after struggling through a foot issue. But those expected to be out Monday include center DeAndre Jordan (ankle), forward Danilo Gallinari (glute), guard C. J. Williams (ankle) and guard Austin Rivers (ankle).
When healthy, the Rockets have looked as good as anybody in the NBA, but they have been streaky because of their own nagging injuries. They had their impressive 14-game win streak, that was then followed by a five-game skid, including that Dec. 22 loss to the Clippers as Paul missed three contests.
The Rockets went on to lose seven of nine in that run, but have rebounded to win their last three games as they are figuring out how to win without All-Star James Harden. A hamstring injury has kept Harden out of action since Dec. 31 and he isn't expected back until the end of the week, meaning he is not expected to face the Clippers.
In a victory at Phoenix on Friday, the Rockets got things done with rebounding and mid-range jump shots, far different than their typical long-range shooting style.
"Any way, we don't care how we're doing it," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters after the victory over the Suns. "We have to be efficient with what we're doing. The difference is that we don't really want that, but if that's what the other team decides 'That's what you're getting,' we'll take it."
Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute (shoulder) is a game-time decision for Monday, while center Zhou Qi (elbow) and forward/center Tarik Black (eye) are day-to-day. Forward/center Nene Hilario (knee), center Chinanu Onuaku (nose) and forward Troy Williams (knee) are all expected to miss Monday's game.
Updated January 14, 2018