Chris Paul will play in Game 3 against Rockets, making series debut

Chris Paul will play in Game 3 against Rockets, making series debut
Clippers point guard Chris Paul is congratulated by a teammate after making two free throws to tie the score against the Spurs in Game 7. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Chris Paul, who is nursing a strained left hamstring, will play against the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series Friday night at Staples Center.

"We're definitely going to restrict his minutes, and a lot of it will be visually," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said.

Paul missed Games 1 and 2 against the Rockets after sustaining the injury May 2 in Game 7 of the Clippers' first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs. After sustaining the injury, Paul was limited to pool workouts until Thursday, when he had his first on-court practice.

"He had a good workout, he probably got his confidence sky-high because we had [assistant coach] Sam Cassell work out with him," Rivers said, laughing. "My guess is [Paul] scored every time."

Without their eight-time All-Star point guard, the Clippers won Game 1 against Houston, 117-101. They then lost Game 2, 115-109.

Rivers said he finds hamstring injuries especially worrisome because there's no MRI exam or X-ray that can prove when the player is ready to return.

"This injury is just one of those injuries that scares the hell out of me," Rivers said.

Paul suffered the injury in the first quarter of Game 7 against the Spurs, yet went on to finish with 27 points and make the game-winning shot with one second left over Danny Green and Tim Duncan to give the Clippers a 111-109 victory.

"He was definitely hurt in Game 7, and he had a lot of adrenaline going and carried us offensively, so we'll have to see what he has in store for us tonight," Barnes said Friday morning at shoot-around.

Rivers said he doesn't want Paul to show any restraint Friday.

"I want Chris to go play, just go play," Rivers said. "He can't go out and nurse anything."

Barnes had another idea in mind.

"I told him tonight I expect the CP that I'm going to see at 50 at the YMCA, you know, like an older Mark Jackson out there -- controlling the sets, running the team, coming off of pick-and-rolls, making plays but still picking and choosing his spots," Barnes said.