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Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers preview: Chris Paul returns

Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images
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The Houston Rockets will attempt to win their fourth consecutive game as Chris Paul returns to L.A. to face the Clippers for the first time since the trade.

Tonight is a big game for Chris Paul, as he will return to Staples Center to play his former team, the Los Angeles Clippers.

Paul spent six seasons playing for the Clippers. The dynamic duo of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul was a special one. They brought the most sustained success that the Clippers ever had and they brought light to a franchise that had always played in the shadow of the Lakers. Paul played the biggest role in lifting the Clippers out of the gutter in the standings to a team that had 50-win seasons year after year.

Unfortunately, the Clippers could never get over the hump. Every time they thought that it was their year, a freak injury or a blown postseason lead rained on their parade. And that is the biggest knock on Chris Paul’s resume. He’s one of the most skilled point guards of all-time, but he’s never escaped the second round of the playoffs.

But basketball is a team sport. Chris Paul averaged 21.2 points, 8.7 assists and 2.3 steals on 48.1 percent shooting in the playoffs during his tenure with Los Angeles. He held up his end of the bargain, but for whatever reasons, the Clippers didn’t have enough to put all of the pieces together.

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After the Clippers lost Griffin due to injury and were eliminated on their own floor against Utah last season, Paul’s time in L.A. was nearing an end. They had a veteran roster with a lot of talent, but it was blatantly clear that they would never win the West, especially with Golden State around.

So Paul basically forced his way out of Lob City to join the Rockets. And on top of that, there was reportedly some conflict in the locker room between Paul, Griffin, Jordan, and head coach Doc Rivers.

It didn’t end well, but I hope that the fans in Los Angeles take a moment to really appreciate what Chris Paul meant to the Clippers organization. He brought the organization winning and leadership, and he gave Clippers fans a sense of pride in their team. Even if they boo him throughout the game, Chris Paul deserves a standing ovation when they announce his name for the starting lineups.

Injuries/Where to watch

The Rockets will be shorthanded again as James Harden (strained hamstring) Nene (bruised right knee), Chinanu Onuaku (sinus surgery), Zhou Qi (elbow) and Troy Williams (knee) are all out. However, Luc Mbah a Moute will return tonight to face his former team and Tarik Black is expected to suit up as well.

Next: Houston Rockets: James Harden to hopefully return this week

As for the Clippers, DeAndre Jordan is questionable with an ankle sprain. Former Rocket Patrick Beverley (knee surgery), Austin Rivers (right ankle) and Danilo Gallinari (left glute) will miss tonight’s contest.

The game will air on TNT at 9:30 p.m. CT.

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