Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul missed the previous 17 games with a hamstring injury, but he’s expected to return to the lineup against the Orlando Magic on Sunday.
Paul, 33, is a nine-time All-Star point guard and former fourth-overall pick in the NBA Draft. He last played against the Miami Heat on December 20, 2018. Paul went down and the Rockets lost by two points, snapping a five-game winning streak.
Despite losing Paul for 17 games, the Houston Rockets (28-20) went 12-5 and were fueled by James Harden’s monstrous hot streak. On Friday night, Harden scored 35 points against the Toronto Raptors, extending his 30-point scoring streak to 22 games.
The Rockets are currently holding down the fifth-overall seed in the Western Conference behind the Golden State Warriors, Nuggets, Thunder, and Trailblazers. However, the Jazz, Clippers, and Spurs are breathing down their neck in the deepest conference in the NBA.
Up and Down CP3
The season kicked off with a bang for CP3. Paul and Rajon Rondo from the Los Angeles Lakers were involved in fisticuffs. The brawl ruined the first home game for LeBron James as a member of the Lakers. Paul was suspended two games for his involvement.
Paul went down with a hamstring injury against the Miami Heat shortly before Christmas. He did not rush back after the holidays because the Rockets need their All-Starpoint guard to remain healthy for the playoffs.
“I’m just happy to see him back on the court,” said teammate James Harden. “He spent so long working out and trying to get his body healthy and right as well.”
Management confirmed that Paul is almost 100 percent ready to play on Sunday against the Orlando Magic. The Rockets are in the middle of a three-game homestand.
Harden Streak Over?
Will the return of Paul mark the end of James Harden’s hot streak? Probably not. The Rockets are still missing center Clint Capela. Capela was second in scoring with 17.6 points per game, before he went down with a thumb injury.
The Rockets picked up Kenneth Faried from the Brooklyn Nets, and the big man will help in the rebounding and defense department. However, Harden will continue to pick up the scoring slack without Capela in the lineup.
With injuries to key players such as Paul, Capela, and Eric Gordon, Harden increased the volume of his scoring. Harden unleashed 22 straight games scoring 30 or more points. During his most recent run, Harden scored 57 points in three out of five games, including back-to-back 50-point performances. The reigning MVP is averaging 52.2 points over his last five games.
Harden destroyed the New York Knicks for 61 points and dazzled the crowd at Madison Square Garden. Against the Toronto Raptors, Harden only scored 35 points on a bad shooting night, but the Rockets beat one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Houston Rockets are now 8-1 odds to win the NBA championships, according to a recent update by the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas.