Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers thinks the odds are 50-50 point guard Chris Paul will return on Wednesday night to try to help the Clippers build a 2-0 lead over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals.
Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has no such concerns about his franchise point guard after Derrick Rose suffered a shoulder stinger in their Game 1 win over Cleveland. Rose said he’s raring to go in the other Game 2 set for Wednesday night.
“The shoulder feels great,” Rose said Tuesday, one day after scoring 25 points in their 99-92 victory in the Eastern Conference semifinals. “It’s not sore or anything. So that’s a good sign.”
Paul missed Game 1 against the Rockets with a left hamstring that was strained in the Clippers’ stirring Game 7 victory over San Antonio. The Clippers surprised many by opening the semifinals with a victory in Houston, but Rivers said that would not affect the timeline for Paul’s return.
“It’s a hard injury for your trainer because he at some point is going to give you the thumbs up and he’ll be sweating that whole night,” Rivers said. “That’s an injury you just don’t know. … You’ve got to trust your player, which is the worst guy to trust in this situation. At some point he’s going to play and we’re going to be sweating because we’re going to not know until he gets out there.”
With one road win already in hand, some think it would be easier for Rivers to rest Paul in Game 2 and give him even more time to recover. But the Clippers lost two home games to the Spurs in the first round, and three of the four Game 1s played in the second round have been won by the road teams — Washington won in Atlanta — so Rivers knows nothing is guaranteed when their series shifts to Los Angeles.
“I hope it doesn’t make them let their guard down,” Rivers said. “It just tells you you won a game. We won a game without Chris and that’s great. But we just won one game.”
Rose, who has played 13 games since returning from his latest knee injury to derail his career over the last two years, said his legs feel strong. He said he might do a little more hydrating and stimulation work on the off days to make sure his legs are fresh with just one day between games, but he wasn’t concerned about it with how things were going.
A look at the two games on Wednesday night:
Clippers at Rockets, Los Angeles leads 1-0, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Blake Griffin is a slam dunk champion, a former No. 1 overall pick and one of the most prolific pitch men in the NBA, so it’s difficult to imagine him doing anything quietly.
With Paul grabbing most of the attention thus far, Griffin’s dominance in the postseason has largely stayed under the radar. His latest masterpiece was a 26-point, 14-rebound, 13-assist performance that lifted the Clippers over the Rockets in Game 1.
While the Clippers looked doomed without their floor general, Griffin destroyed Houston’s sluggish front line. He got to the free throw line for 10 shots and assumed the role of playmaker with Chris Paul on the bench. But coach Doc Rivers was most impressed by his rebounding, which helped the thin Clippers front line hang with Dwight Howard.
“He’s done it all year, not the triple-doubles, but the passing and the rebounding,” Rivers said. “The rebounding is what is up … which has been huge for us.”
The Rockets will need to get James Harden going. He had 20 points and 12 assists for the Rockets, but didn’t look like the same super-aggressive player that finished second to Stephen Curry in the MVP voting. He took just 13 shots and only six free throws in an oddly passive performance.
Bulls at Cavaliers, Chicago leads 1-0, 7 p.m., TNT
The Cavaliers figured to have a harder time scoring with Kevin Love out for the rest of the playoffs with a shoulder injury and J.R. Smith suspended for the first two games of the series after hitting a Boston Celtics player in the first round.
Their struggles on defense against the Bulls in Game 1 were more unexpected.
The Bulls shot 50 percent for the game and 55.6 percent on 3-pointers in their 99-92 victory, leaving the Cavaliers scrambling to cover Pau Gasol in pick-and-pop situations and Mike Dunleavy Jr. on the perimeter.
“Some of it was some of our game plan and some of it was we could’ve gave a better effort,” LeBron James said. “But it wasn’t too much miscommunication at all.”
Gasol scored 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting, many of those the midrange jumpers that came after setting a screen for Derrick Rose. Dunleavy and Rose combined to hit 6 of 10 3s, helping the Bulls build a big enough cushion to withstand a Cavaliers charge in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t think anything’s easy when you’re playing against a good opponent,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. “There are adjustments we can make and we did make, maybe a little later than we could have.”
AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland and Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.
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