Chris Paul didn't play in game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers second round playoff series against the Houston Rockets due to a hamstring injury, and some crazy stuff happened. Both teams combined for 47 turnovers, Austin Rivers managed to hit 4 threes and still look lost, Josh Smith only shot 1-5 from deep (the percentage isn't crazy, but the fact that there's still a team willing to let him shoot 5 in a game after all these years is pretty crazy), and the Clippers somehow emerged victorious.
Now Doc Rivers is faced with a dilemma: should Paul play in game 2? He said yesterday that he was 50-50, and so is the ClipsNation staff. I think he should play. Danielle Greenberg thinks that he should rest. Here's the arguments from both sides.
Editorial note: this was a blind exchange. We didn't know what the other wrote beforehand and had no chance to counterargue. We'll leave that debate to the comments section where everyone can join in.
Lucas Hann: Why Chris Paul should play
Let's make something very clear: if Chris Paul isn't healthy enough to play, the Clippers can't force him into action. But if he can play, even if it's only limited minutes, he should. The reason why is simple: it's the playoffs, and every game matters. I feel like a lot of people are taking for granted that the Clippers will win their two home games, but that's not what happened last series. The Clippers dropped two games at home against the Spurs and it's not crazy to think that the same could happen against Houston. What happens when the Clippers don't try their hardest in game 2 because they assume they'll get wins in games 3 and 4, and then the Rockets shock the Clippers in one of those games just like the Clippers shocked the Rockets in game 1?
This is the deepest the Clippers have ever gone in the postseason, and they have a chance to get to their first ever Conference Finals. On one hand, getting there means nothing if they don't capitalize on the opportunity that it gives them to win a title. On the other hand, they have to make sure they get there in order to have that opportunity at all, and in order for this to have been considered a successful season by the media.
The Clippers will need Chris Paul eventually, and they can't afford to have him out. But how long can they get away with resting him? If he can play tonight, he has to. If it's a serious health risk, then he has to sit. But if he's too injured to play tonight and in game 3, then it's a bad sign for the rest of the postseason.
Doc Rivers would be far, far better off getting what he can out of Chris Paul tonight (again, as long as there's no significant health risk) and trying to step on the Rockets' throats and go up 2-0 with a chance to close the series out at home, when the alternative is likely dropping the game tonight against a fired up Houston squad and heading back to LA tied 1-1, with Chris Paul still questionable, and the momentum and talent advantages clearly on the side of the higher seed.
Danielle Greenberg: Why Chris Paul should sit
Doc Rivers is being coy with the media, claiming that there is a 50% chance Chris Paul plays tomorrow night in Houston for Game 2 of the semifinals. Let's hope that he errs on the side of caution and sits his point guard until Game 3 in Los Angeles.
The Clippers came to Houston and got their split. They now possess home-court advantage and shocked the Rockets by winning decisively without Paul. They cast doubt on the Rockets and hold the psychological edge at this point in the series. The Clippers looked like a team on a mission last night, and the confidence of their role players has likely increased after Game 1.
By playing Paul in Game 2, Rivers has very little to gain and everything to lose. First, there is the obvious concern that Paul could re-aggravate his hamstring injury that he sustained in the first half of Game 7 against the Spurs. Second, there is a real chance that the Rockets come out en fuego in Game 2 to atone for their abysmal performance on Monday night in front of their home fans. If Paul plays and the Clippers lose, the Rockets have confidence heading into Game 3. This would be very bad for Los Angeles.
No, it is better to sit Paul and see how the rest of the team does in his absence again. Worst case scenario, the Rockets trounce the Clippers. A resounding victory would probably give the Rockets some life heading into Los Angeles, but at least the Clippers would have bought Paul a few extra days to aid in his healing. Also, the Rockets would still likely wonder how they would have fared if Paul played, and this question mark could give the Clippers an edge in Game 3. In other words, they still have an ace up their sleeve (assuming Paul is anywhere close to himself). If the Paul-less Clippers lose the game but manage to keep it close, the Rockets will get a good scare. Best case scenario, Griffin can lead the team to a second victory in Houston.
Playing Paul in Game 3 is just too risky. The Clippers should savor the opportunity to get their point guard some rest. Let him make his return in front of his fans at Staples Center.