The Rockets saw their five-game win streak come to an end Thursday in Miami, where the Heat held on for a 101-99 victory.
As much as the Rockets need wins to dig out of their early-season hole, it wasn’t even close to the worst news of the night.
That would be yet another hamstring injury suffered by star point guard Chris Paul. While an immediate prognosis was not available, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he anticipates Paul will be out for “some time,” an absence his team can ill afford as it attempts to improve on its current spot at eighth in the Western Conference standings.
.@KristenLedlow gives an update on Chris Paul, who suffered a strained left hamstring and will not return to tonight's game. pic.twitter.com/OLTHVEIymG
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 21, 2018
It marks the latest instance in Paul’s seemingly endless battle with his own body.
Indeed, Paul has already missed three games this season to soreness in the same left leg he injured Thursday. And it comes on the not-so-distant heels of the right hamstring strain that forced him to miss Games 6 and 7 of the 2018 Western Conference finals.
The Rockets lost both of those games, and of course the series. As they muddle through the wilderness of this star-crossed season, one wonders if that was the best shot they’ll have at a championship in their current iteration.
It’s also fair to ask whether this is the new norm for Paul, who was injury prone even in his prime. As former NBA executive Bobby Marks noted, this marks his eighth hamstring injury since 2009 alone.
Here is a complete list of the Chris Paul hamstring issues that have plagued him since 2009:
* 5/18 (L-2)
* 4/18 (L-1G)
* 3/18 (L-3)
* 12/16 (L-7G)
* 5/15 (L-2G)
* 11/13 (R-1G)
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) December 21, 2018
Fortunately for Paul, none of his previous hamstring injuries cost him more than seven games.
But with 34 rapidly approaching and more than 1,000 games played including the postseason, recovering from setbacks like this isn’t getting any easier. Nor will that provide much comfort for the Rockets, who were just starting to resemble last year’s powerhouse before their floor general — without whom they’re 0-5 this season, and 15-16 over the past two — went down.
Doing it on both ends
Heat reserve Tyler Johnson turned in one of his best games of the season against the Rockets, highlighted by easily his best sequence of the season:
Breaking the curse
The Heat’s victory snapped an 0-6 skid in their gorgeous black “Vice Nights” alternates.
Bag of tricks
Not that we didn’t know this already, but budding Mavericks star Luka Doncic is not your typical rookie:
Got 'em 👀#MFFL pic.twitter.com/xJWohDezba
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 21, 2018
Although it wasn’t enough to deliver a Dallas victory, Doncic (32 points, 10-for-20 shooting) finished with the first of what will undoubtedly be many 30-point games to come.
Down goes Rivers!
Pro tip: When you’re protesting a call, try not to slip and nearly kill yourself.
Down goes Doc! 😂#Shaqtin pic.twitter.com/Wavna1tAcF
— Shaqtin' a Fool (@shaqtin) December 21, 2018
Said Rivers after the game, a 125-121 victory for his Clippers: “I’m hurting. When I went down, the first thing I thought was, ‘I tore my ACL.’ The doctor said I didn’t, my body said I did, so we’ll find out tomorrow.”
Coming of age
It was the kind of news you usually hear regarding Little League pitchers, not NBA players.
Kings guard Buddy Hield revealed during a recent interview that he actually turned 26 last Monday, and not 25 as would be the case with the 1993 birth year listed on most sites.
Rather than an attempt to deceive NBA executives who were already concerned about his relatively advanced age coming out of Oklahoma in 2016, the Bahamas native said the botched birthday had nothing to do with him.
“That’s their fault, not my fault,” said Hield, who is averaging a career-high 19.9 points per game this season. “The first time I saw it on Wikipedia, my mom said, ‘Why do they have your age wrong?’ I said, ‘I have no idea.’
“I came over with a passport. My passport has 1992 on it. My driver’s license has 1992 on it. I just think people got their information from Wikipedia or wherever, and they just went with it. They just got it wrong.”
Per NBC Sports’ James Ham, Kings general manager Vlade Divac was aware of Hield’s correct age.