SAN FRANCISCO — There was a moment in the third quarter Thursday night, during Game 3 of the Clippers' playoff series against Golden State, when Chris Paul extended his right hand and ran it down his right hamstring.
When Clippers Coach Doc Rivers saw his All-Star point guard laboring, Rivers turned to trainer Jasen Powell and said, "That's it."
Moments later, Paul came out of the game after picking up his fourth foul, and Rivers had some doubts that Paul would be able to return.
But in the fourth quarter Rivers gave in to Paul's wishes and sent him back into the game, another sign of the trust the two have built.
"Yeah, it was big. But I probably would have put myself in had he not done it," Paul said Friday, laughing as he recalled the story. "We've got a great relationship and dialogue. He trusts me to know that I wouldn't do anything to try and hurt the team either."
Paul played 35 minutes Thursday, scored eight of the Clippers' last nine points and came up with the play of the game when he forced Warriors guard Stephen Curry into missing a potential game-winning three-pointer.
That preserved the Clippers' 98-96 victory and gave them a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven first-round series.
"The trust as far as us basketball-wise is perfect," Rivers said of his relationship with Paul. "It's just [with] any guys with injuries . . . one game they are telling you the truth, the next game they are not, because they want to play and you can't blame anybody for wanting to play. That's a good thing.
"Having said that, I've got to make sure them wanting to play is not putting themselves in harm's way and that's where J.P. [Powell] comes in. So I listen to both. I listen to J.P. more on injury stuff."
Paul, who also had a 100-degree fever earlier this week, said the two days off before Game 4 on Sunday will be beneficial for his recovery.
"Luckily, there's no back-to-backs," Paul said. "So I'll be ready by Sunday."
Extra days off will help other injured Clippers as well.
Guard Jamal Crawford still is dealing with a strained left calf, but said he will play Sunday.
Starting shooting guard J.J. Redick still is not 100% recovered from a bulging disk in his back, but he also plans to play in Game 4.
And forward Matt Barnes suffered a jammed big left toe in the second half Thursday, but continued to play after getting treatment.
"I've just got to suck it up at this point," Barnes said. "No one is completely healthy."
Meanwhile, Paul continues to draw the toughest defensive assignment for the Clippers in trying to defend Curry.
Curry has struggled in the series. He's averaging 18 points per game, six below his regular-season average, and is shooting just 44.4% from the field, 28.6% from three-point range.
"It's not like I was out there playing defense by myself and I stopped five Warrior players. I think defense is one of those things you take pride in," Paul said.
"At the end of the day, good offense is going to beat great defense any day. So great offensive scorers, they are going to make shots. Like I don't expect to shut anybody out. You just always want to try to make it tough."
Paul said the Clippers are expecting the Warriors to make it even tougher on them in the next game. A win by the Clippers on Sunday would put Golden State in a 3-1 hole, with Game 5 at Staples Center on Tuesday night.
"Anything that happened [Thursday] night is going to have absolutely nothing to do with Game 4," Paul said. "That one is in the books. Nothing can help us going into Game 4."
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