The question is whether the real-life Paul wears matching attire.
Paul has donned an olive sports coat and a charcoal suit for the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals, outfits he would happily exchange for his normal game wear against the
The eight-time All-Star remained questionable with a strained left hamstring as a series tied at one game apiece shifts to Staples Center for Game 3 on Friday night. Clippers Coach
"My guess is it's going to come down to the eye and a feel test, the eye test by us and our trainer and then how he feels," Rivers said during a conference call with reporters. "I think with hamstrings, there really is no gauge, so I think that's what we're going to look for."
Hamstrings can be tricky, as the Clippers are discovering while assessing Paul's availability on what seems like a minute-to-minute basis. If he returned Friday, Paul will have had five full days off since he sustained the injury in the first half of Game 7 in the first round against the
Rivers said Paul had groused about the Clippers having to play every other day against the Rockets as opposed to other teams who are enjoying as many as three days between games in their playoff series.
"It would have benefited him," Rivers said of the extra rest. "I told him, 'Listen, you're right, but it is what it is and we just have to deal with it.' "
The Clippers persevered without Paul in their series opener against the Rockets, but their offense stagnated in the second half of Game 2 when they tried to force the ball to Blake Griffin. The Clippers scored 44 points in the second half Wednesday, only three more points than they had managed during a second quarter when they had appeared to take control of the game and the series.
Griffin finished with 34 points but only eight came after halftime as Houston switched to a smaller lineup that did a better job of denying the power forward the ball in his preferred spots.
The Clippers were continually in a foul mood even when they weren't intentionally sending Houston's
"They hit first all night, they were the aggressor all night and they got rewarded with going to the free-throw line, so that was on us," Rivers said.
Paul prodded his teammates from the bench as only he can, the Clippers' emotional leader giving pointers along with encouragement.
The last time Paul set foot inside Staples Center he hit an improbable one-handed, one-legged jumper with one second left to win the series against the Spurs on Saturday.
A return Friday would provide an emotional jolt even if Paul was nowhere near his usual brilliance. He acknowledged before Game 2 that determining when he should play again was complicated by a frenetic style of play that could lead itself to aggravating his injury.
Not that Paul would probably let that stop him from suiting up.
"One thing about me," Paul said, "if I can play, I'm going to play, so you don't even have to worry about it."