Paul Day-To-Day After Leaving Spurs Game With Hamstring Strain
LOS ANGELES – The scene was all too familiar, as Chris Paul, in a game against the Spurs, pulled up and grabbed at his left hamstring.
Only Thursday night, it wasn’t in a deciding Game 7 as it was two years ago. And this time, he wasn’t needed in a heroic return.
The backups finished off the Spurs, with the Clippers leading by double digits for most of the fourth quarter before beating San Antonio for the second time this year, despite playing without both Blake Griffin (knee procedure) and Paul down the stretch.
“We have a deep, talented team,” Paul said afterward. “When a guy goes down, we have guys that are more than capable of stepping up.”
And just about everyone did.
Nine of the 11 Clippers who entered the game scored at least seven points, including 58 points from the Clippers’ reserves, who were led by Marreese Speights and Raymond Felton. The duo combined for 27 points, with Speights knocking down shots and hitting the glass and Felton attacking the rim.
Speights, Jamal Crawford and Wesley Johnson were the only Clippers to play 27 minutes or more on the night, and were admittedly gassed by the end. But the backups earned the minutes, and head coach Doc Rivers kept them in late.
“Playing that long and those long spurts, it’s been a while for me,” Johnson said with a smile afterward. “Jamal said when we got into the locker room after the game that it was like training camp all over again.”
But they fought through it.
“I was watching the game from the back, and Wes and them didn’t need me,” Paul said.
For three quarters, though, they did.
In the Clippers’ first matchup against the Spurs this year, Paul helped hold San Antonio’s starting backcourt to four points in a win. By the end of the third quarter Thursday night, the Spurs’ starting backcourt was just 3-for-13 with seven points, six rebounds and four assists, while Paul alone had already compiled 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
He did exactly what Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich expected with Griffin sidelined.
“Chris takes on a lot more leadership and becomes a total, total monster,” Popovich said before the game. “He’s got the Kobe-like heart of a lion. You’ll see that, and he’ll do that while Blake is down. He’ll take a lot on himself and be even more demonstrative in scoring or doing what he’s got to do to motivate his team.”
Leading his team in points and assists at the time, Paul was doing just that as he went around a screen in the third quarter chasing Tony Parker when he grabbed at his left hamstring.
“I swear I saw it right when it happened,” said Rivers, who added that Paul will be day-to-day. “We got him out right away. He wasn’t allowed to play anymore, which I thought helped.”
Rivers said he doesn’t think it’s bad, but it’s hard to know with hamstrings until the next day. Paul also doesn’t believe the hamstring strain is serious.
He was questionable to return, though he didn’t leave the locker room with the Clippers holding onto a comfortable lead down the stretch. Paul said he’ll receive treatment Thursday night, and he hopes to be ready Friday for Dallas.
“Luckily, I’m well-versed in dealing with hamstring injuries, so I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I get back,” Paul said.
One thing Paul made clear: If he can physically go, regardless of the time of year, he’s going to fight to be on the court.
“I want to play,” Paul said. “Ain’t got nothing to do with who out, what’s going on, I want to play…No ifs, ands, buts.”