Injury Report: Austin Rivers to start in place of Chris Paul vs. Houston


Likely a protective measure to keep a nagging injury from evolving into a worse one, the Clippers will sit starting point guard Chris Paul tonight against the Houston Rockets, with backup point guard Austin Rivers starting in place of the multi-time All-Star.

The injury suffered, a strained right groin, occurred toward the end of the Clippers loss to the defending NBA champions. Down four points with near 15 points left on the clock, instead of being on the floor to help his team, trainers forced Paul to sit on the sideline for the final possession of the game, which ended in an awful three-point attempt from Jamal Crawford — following the game, Paul stated he’d hope to appear in tonight’s game but it looks like the training staff has other ideas (positive ones) for the point guard.

And given who tonight’s opponent is, no Paul serves as a small dose of deja vu for Clippers fans as Paul missed games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against… you guessed it, the Rockets; splitting those two games 1-1, the Clippers would go up 3-1 on the Rockets before the historic collapse that’d send the team home just short of the Western Conference finals for the second season in a row.

If tonight’s matchup reflects much of what we saw from the Clippers without CP3 in the playoffs, prepare yourselves for a heavy dose of Blake Griffin (who tweaked a knee against the Golden State Warriors in the team’s last game) doing everything in his arsenal to keep the team afloat without his partnering superstar; in the two playoff games against Houston without Paul, Griffin finished with at total of 70 points, 17 assists, and 29 rebounds.

Of course, Griffin can’t do it alone, as we saw in Game 2 of that series when the Clippers fell to Houston without Paul. The persons are different, with Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, Paul Pierce, Wesley Johnson, and Pablo Prigioni added to the equation, but the needs are the same, and if the Clippers hope to be successful in tonight’s game without Paul it’ll require an impressive effort from the bench, a case that hasn’t been all that common in the early season.

In regards to the starters, with new personnel on the Rockets’ side, it’ll be an interesting test for the starting Rivers, as he’s shown improvement on the defensive side of the ball through his stint as a Clipper. With Patrick Beverly subjected to bench duty, Ty Lawson, formerly of the Denver Nuggets, will be opposite of Austin in his start of the season — Lawson, in 38.2 minutes per, is averaging 11.7 points and 6.0 this season, scoring double-digit points in all but one game on the season.

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And with Austin in the starting lineup, we’ll finally get a chance to see third-string point guard Pablo Prigioni, who played for the Houston Rockets last season. Due to depth, we’ve been unable to see the veteran in rotation minutes this season but there’s reason to believe his presence with the bench unit could provide the bench with the stability it needs, as well as his knack for doing things that don’t show up on the stat sheet — moving the ball, hustle plays, defending well.

In 79 minutes, the Clippers have posted a net rating of -5.7 when Chris Paul’s not on the floor, as opposed to 13.8 when on.