Clippers-Rockets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 15, 2013
The Los Angeles Clippers could be without their superstar point guard for a second straight game. If their most recent contest was any indication, they should be just fine. Chris Paul will likely be a game-time decision for the Clippers as they continue a three-game road trip Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets. Paul is day-to-day with a bruised right kneecap and missed his first game of the season on Monday, but the Clippers (29-9) matched their second-largest victory margin of 2012-13 in a 99-73 win at Memphis. He sustained the injury when he bumped knees with J.J. Redick while chasing a loose ball in Saturday's loss to Orlando. Results of an MRI were negative. Paul is second on the team at 16.8 points per game, second in the league in assists (9.7) and first in steals (2.6). "I want to play. No question, I want to play," Paul told the team's official website. "If I feel like I hinder the team then I won't." Eric Bledsoe had 14 points with four assists, two steals and no turnovers while making his first start in Paul's place. The third-year player came in averaging 8.4 points and 2.6 assists over 18.1 minutes. "We've got to do a good job helping (Bledsoe) a little bit, too," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Guys have got to make shots and talk and we've got to put him in a position to be successful. He's got to control the tempo, control his turnovers and run the team. It's nothing he's not capable of doing." The bench - a strength all year for Los Angeles ranking second in the league with 41.0 ppg - stepped up in a big way. The Clippers' reserves outscored Memphis' 54-26. Los Angeles is 22-6 when its bench outscores the opponent's. ''Missing the best point guard in the world in Chris Paul, we all had to play collectively and step it up, and I thought we did a good job of that,'' said Jamal Crawford, who scored 16 off the bench. Houston (21-17) started its three-game trip on a five-game win streak, but went winless on the trek, capped by Saturday's 107-100 defeat to Philadelphia. A return home should help, as the Rockets have won seven of eight there. "Every team goes through some adversity and we're going through some a little bit right now," coach Kevin McHale said. "We didn't win. We've got to find a way to win." The Rockets are mired in a 3-point shooting slump, going 26 for 92 (28.3 percent) over their last three games. Starters James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin are a combined 13 of 50 (26.0 percent) during that span. They've also been outrebounded in three straight games by an average of 4.3 and the last two opponents shot a combined 50.6 percent from the field. "We're not rebounding the ball like we need to be and we're not getting stops," said Harden, the NBA's fourth-leading scorer at 26.5 ppg. "During that five-game winning streak we were getting stops and getting out in transition scoring the basketball. If we don't get stops it slows us down and that's key." The Rockets probably wouldn't mind if Paul sat out a second straight game. He averaged 23.7 points, 8.3 assists and 3.0 steals while shooting 50.0 percent in three wins against them last season. Los Angeles swept the season series after losing 13 of the previous 16 meetings.
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