Rockets to play home opener vs. Mavs without Paul (Oct 21, 2017)
The Houston Rockets will show off a new look, but one that won't include star point guard Chris Paul when they make their 2017-18 home debut against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.
Paul made a nice splash in his first game for the Rockets with 11 assists and four points in a national showcase road win over the championship-celebrating Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. But he played through pain in his right knee in the 33-minute effort, and 24 hours later sat out a 105-100 win up the road at Sacramento.
The Rockets announced Friday that Paul will not play in Saturday's home opener, and it was subsequently reported that he could miss two to four weeks rehabbing the injury he suffered banging knees with Memphis' Mario Chalmers on Oct. 11.
"If I'm ready, trust me. You don't ever have to worry about me sitting if I'm fine," Paul insisted at practice Friday, later noting he and team management are more concerned about the "big picture" than winning any single game.
After joining the Portland Trail Blazers as the only teams to open the 2017-18 season with two road wins, the Rockets will put their perfect overall record on the line against Dallas, which tipped off with home losses to Atlanta and Sacramento.
To add injury to insult, the Mavericks had to go Friday night without impressive rookie Dennis Smith Jr., whose left knee swelled up after he'd debuted with 16 points and 10 assists against Atlanta.
Smith also will not suit up Saturday night.
"It doesn't make any sense to rush through the weekend," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle cautioned Friday night. "Doc checked him out, and we think he's going to be fine."
The Rockets' new look has featured improvements offensively and defensively.
One big reason they were able to outlast the Warriors in a high-scoring game was the play of the only three guys they used off the bench -- Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute.
They not only combined for 58 points, outscoring the Golden State reserves by 10 points, but newcomers Tucker and Mbah a Moute, both considered defensive standouts, shared in an effort that held Warriors star Kevin Durant scoreless for the first quarter and to 20 points overall.
Durant had averaged 35.5 points against the Rockets last year, during which Golden State won the season series 3-1.
Houston is still led by James Harden, who had 27 points in each of the wins.
But he has had just one double-double, limited to nine assists against the Kings and totaling no more than six rebounds in either game.
Harden had two double-doubles when the Rockets swept the four-game season series from their Texas rival last season.
The Mavericks have lost three in a row at Houston and trail 90-81 in the all-time series.
Dallas so far has been hampered by poor 3-point defense -- the Hawks and Kings combined to go 19 of 41 (46.3 percent) from beyond the arc -- and the lackluster play of Dirk Nowitzki, who has totaled just 20 points on 8-of-23 shooting (34.8 percent).