I've made no secret of my opinion: I believe that the Los Angeles Clippers are better than the Houston Rockets. But all of the statistics that support that decision assume a healthy Chris Paul, the one that played 82 games this season and finished sixth in MVP voting. The Clippers went into Houston and split two games without Paul, and even had a chance at a 2-0 trip. But even if they might be able to beat the Rockets without Paul, the simple fact is that they are a much different team, and the certainly can't be considered the favoriting without their team leader -- especially when you consider the specific drop off at the point guard when handing the reigns to the likes of Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford and Lester Hudson.
Paul is going to play tonight in Game 3. And we'll find out what to expect from the rest of the series.
Paul obviously thinks he's healthy enough to play. According to Doc Rivers, he went hard in practice on Thursday "without adrenaline" and felt fine -- so the additional adrenaline of a playoff game might carry him through. But as we know by now, hamstrings are a tricky thing -- just ask Kevin Johnson.
If Paul is effective, if he avoids aggravating the injury -- then this series will go to the Clippers. If he is slow or ineffective, or if it turns out he came back to soon and re-injures himself, then the smart money should be on the Rockets.
So stay tuned. We'll know a lot more in about three hours.