In the first quarter of the L.A. Clippers and San Antonio Spurs Game 7, Twitter transformed into tens of thousands of 140 character eulogies for the Clippers' playoff hopes as Chris Paul went to the locker room with a non-contact hamstring injury.
Paul returned in the second quarter with a noticeable limp and produced a second round of online eulogies again in the third quarter. Paul grabbed his hamstring while moving toward the basket and was taken from the game. He was barely able to bring the ball up the court. Without Paul the Clippers seemed done. They weren't.
In the final seconds of the game Paul turned tens of thousands of online eulogies in Willis Reed comparisons by hitting the game winning shot, with a single leg.
Paul's status for the Rockets-Clippers series is unknown. Hamstring injuries are fickle and they're frustrating. They take time to heal, have a high occurrence of re-injury and leave athletes consistently believing they can return to the court.
I guess Kevin McHale expects Chris Paul to play. "He may or may not (play). The sun may or may not come up tomorrow, but I’m banking on it."— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) May 3, 2015
There's a possibility Paul won the series but cost himself a few games by playing on an injury. There's also a possibility the right regime of treatment has Paul on the court on Monday.
1. The Rockets get what they wanted:
The Rockets never gave a public preference between the Clippers and the Spurs. To begin with, the Western Conference is a cement ocean adrift with Chris Paul's injury makes clear one fact... The Rockets just wanted that series to go seven games.
Chris Paul's injury actualizes the silent thoughts of coy Rockets fans. This is the crowd who didn't care if the Rockets drew the Clippers or Spurs. The smart money is on the series going seven games, being physical and creating an exhausted and eroded opponent for a rested Rockets squad. If you were in this camp, mission accomplished. Or, something.
2. Trevor Ariza
Patrick Beverley: A reflection
NBA Savant data tells us what we already know: Patrick Beverley gives opposing point guards fits.
Only 25 players in the league have defended Chris Paul for 20+ field goal attempts this season (NBA Savant uses SportVU data to determine who the closest defender is to a field goal attempt). Of those players, Patrick Beverley has held Chris Paul to the lowest field goal percentage and it isn't even close.
Beverley held Paul to 6 of 25 shooting, or 24 percent. The only two other players to hold Paul under 35 percemt from the field: Draymond Green and Gerald Green (somehow).
If/when Chris Paul is healthy in this series, he unfortunately won't be guarded by Patrick Beverley. In the same vein, he won't be guarded by the turnstile of Jason Terry or Pablo Prigioni.
Both Terry and Prigioni held their own against a startlingly defunct Rajon Rondo in the Mavericks series. That statement isn't an accolade, they both folded like camping furniture against JJ Barea. Yes, that JJ Barea.
Containing Chris Paul (if healthy) is likely going to fall to Trevor Ariza, an assignment which produced one of Ariza's best moments this season:
This hasn't been a common occurrence. Ariza has been more prone to drawing assignments against the Clippers forwards than the guards. Putting Ariza on Paul will be a change of pace from the four games the two teams have played this season, but one that's almost mandated by the absence of Beverley and the need to keep James Harden out of foul trouble.
The assignment makes sense as the Rockets will throw a platoon of players at Blake Griffin. No one on the Clippers is more assured to "get his" than Griffin. A pinwheel of Terrence Jones, Josh Smith, Dwight Howard and Clint Capela will be matched up against Griffin. His ability to draw fouls will likely bind the Rockets at points.
The longer Chris Paul is out or an injury renders him ineffective, the longer the Rockets have the ability to use Ariza's defensive talents elsewhere on the floor. This is important because the Clippers don't win multiple games in their series without serious contributions from their rag-tag roles players. Shutting down Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick while giving Blake Griffin a larger array of defenders wins you games.
3. Jamal Crawford
If Chris Paul misses time, the L.A. Clippers starting point guard will certainly be Jamal Crawford, a shoot-first, instant-offense contributor. Crawford's presence on the court won't disrupt the Clippers offensive production, but it will make it harder for the team to get baskets. Without Paul, the offense will increasingly rely on Griffin, which impacts the effectiveness of DeAndre Jordan.
This can't be reviewed without mentioning this simple fact, Jamal Crawford gets his against the Rockets:
Crawford scored 20+ points in each of his three games against the Rockets this year and he's enough of a gifted shooter that the Rockets have to expect he'll score. There are not enough above-replacement Rockets defenders to contain Crawford while keeping an eye on the Clippers other shooters.
The biggest impact of starting Jamal Crawford is ironically the loss of Jamal Crawford the bench player. The Clippers run the tightest eight man regimen in the league. Starting Crawford means Austin Rivers has to play serious minutes as the backup point guard and means Doc River may have to call Lester Hudson off the bench.
Crawford starting means even more minutes for Matt Barnes and JJ Reddick who both just went seven games against the league's most active offense. Pulling 30-35 minutes of above-replacement play from the Clippers creates problems for their starting five and their bench.
No disrespect to Blake Griffin, as he's likely to gather two more triple-doubles against the Rockets, but Chris Paul is the Clippers best player. The hamstring could be good-to-go today, or it could cause Paul to miss a few games. Either way, Paul's left leg will prove to the most influential factor in this series.