CLIPPERS

Chris Paul sits again in Game 2 of Clippers-Rockets series

Chris Paul's hamstring is not ready for Game 2 against Rockets

Doc Rivers likes to have fun when asked about the status of Chris Paul's strained left hamstring.

Rivers' response before Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets: "Uh, he alive."

His response before Game 2 on Wednesday: "It's his birthday, so that's the update."

Paul turned 30 and Clippers rookie C.J. Wilcox sang "Happy Birthday" on behalf of the team. A better present would have been the OK to play against the Rockets, but Paul had to settle for presents and the monotone warbling of his teammate.

Paul missed a second consecutive game in the series after Rivers said the star point guard was not sufficiently recovered from the injury he sustained in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs.

"He's moving better today than he was, so that's a good sign," Rivers said, "but not good enough to play in a basketball game."

Rivers said the Clippers' win in the first game in the series did not factor into his decision and that Paul would have played were he capable. Rivers said Paul did some running in a pool and was shooting free throws.

The coach said he was optimistic Paul would play at some point in the series.

"I don't know if I'm discouraged or encouraged about Game 3," Rivers said of the game scheduled for Friday night at Staples Center, "but he's just going to have to take it day by day."

Speaking with reporters for the first time since the day he was injured, Paul acknowledged that the decision whether to play was "really tough" because of his frenetic style.

"There's only one way I know how to play," Paul said. "It's one of those things where you don't want to make it any worse than it already is."

Paul said the Clippers' win in Game 1 might have made him less antsy about returning for Game 2.

"Well, that definitely didn't hurt," Paul said. "I told the guys after last game, 'If it's not broke, don't fix it.' [But] Blake [Griffin] let me know that he needed me."

Paul spent Game 1 patrolling the bench in an olive sport coat, encouraging teammates and dispensing advice. It wasn't a role he particularly enjoyed.

"I told them if I was to miss tonight," Paul said of Game 2, "I would probably have to take some type of anxiety pill because it's a lot more nerve-racking being on the bench than it is in the game. … This is probably a reason why I'll never coach — not at this level, maybe my AAU kids, but not this because this is too stressful."

Paul, who is scheduled to work out on the court Thursday, said part of the reason he was so emotional after making the go-ahead shot against San Antonio with one second left in Game 7 of the first round was because he knew that his hamstring would only feel worse in the coming days.

"I was telling our trainer on the bench it was almost a bittersweet moment," Paul said. "Like, yeah, I'm happy we're advancing, but I sort of knew I wouldn't be able to go, at least for that first game."

Friendly banter

Rivers teased Rockets fans near the court late in the series opener after his team started to pull away for the victory.

"Hey!" Rivers yelled in a sequence replayed on national television. "I don't hear y'all crying now. Why aren't y'all crying now out there? I don't hear anything now. Come on! Y'all gotta boo! Y'all gotta boo!"

It was nothing new for a coach who routinely likes to exchange barbs with fans.

"I like to engage because they're going to engage you anyway, so get it over with is the way I look at it," Rivers said. "Sometimes you know not to when they're in mean spirit. Fans, for the most part, they want to cheer for their team and enjoy the game. There are places where I don't ever turn around because they're just [awful], but then there's places you can have some fun."

Apparently Houston is fun.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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