MIAMI -- Different leg. Same problem.
Chris Paul has another hamstring issue to deal with, and the Houston Rockets are bracing for another stint without their All-Star point guard. Paul will have an MRI in Houston on Friday to determine the severity of the strain in his left hamstring, one that he hurt during the second quarter of the Rockets' 101-99 loss in Miami.
"We've got to figure it out," said Rockets guard James Harden, the league's reigning MVP. "Injuries happen."
The word on Chris Paul: "It'll be some time," Mike D'Antoni said. MRI tomorrow on the left hamstring.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) December 21, 2018
Seeing Paul grab at the back of his leg surely conjured up bad reminders of his right hamstring strain late last season, the injury that knocked him out of Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors won both of those games to erase the Rockets' 3-2 lead in the series, and went on to sweep Cleveland for the NBA title.
The Rockets are 0-5 without Paul this season and have dropped nine straight when he doesn't play going back to last season. Including playoffs, the Rockets are 77-22 when Paul plays.
"I've had hamstring issues before and I know how frustrating they are," said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, one of Paul's closest friends in the league. "And especially an injury like that ... last year you could say it cost them a championship not having him out there with the hamstring. It's hard, but I just want him to stay positive. It's a small hurdle again and you get over it, but it starts mentally first. Physically, I know he will do the work."
Paul is averaging 15.6 points, 8.0 assists and 2.1 steals this season for the Rockets, who host San Antonio on Saturday.
His latest injury came on a relatively innocuous-looking play. Paul dribbled behind his back near midcourt while cutting right, and the ball got knocked away by Miami's Derrick Jones Jr. That was the moment where Paul grabbed the back of his left leg -- the telltale sign of a hamstring issue.
He went directly to the Houston locker room, never returned and was dressed and gone before the room opened postgame.
"It's definitely tough because he's a big-time playmaker and ball handler for us," Rockets guard Eric Gordon said. "In this offense you need all of the playmaking that you can have and usually me, Chris, and James have the ball in our hands trying to play-make for other people and provide good scoring."
Paul is 33, and not even half a season into a four-year, $159.7 million contract that he signed with Houston back in July. He was struggling with his shot of late -- connecting on 34 percent of his tries in his most recent five games entering the matchup in Miami -- but was still a big factor in Houston being able to match a season high with five straight wins.
Veteran point guard Brandon Knight played 18 minutes on Thursday after logging no more than eight minutes in any of his four prior games this season. He finished with three points on 1-for-5 shooting and could see a bigger role in the rotation if Paul is out for an extended period of time.
The Rockets were winning by eight in Miami when he got hurt, and got outscored by 10 the rest of the way. And the combined winning percentage of their next nine opponents is .601 -- so being without Paul for a while would obviously make this looming stretch even more daunting for a Rockets team that has been decidedly up and down this season.
They lost only 17 regular-season games last season. They've nearly matched that already, off to a 16-15 start, and entering Friday are tied for merely the eighth-best record in the jammed Western Conference. The Rockets are two games out of fourth, and two games out of 14th.
"It's definitely going to be tough," Gordon said of the prospects of being without Paul for a while again. "But we've just got to make adjustments and play even better."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.