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Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul has missed 17 straight games with a left hamstring strain, but the 14-year veteran looks like he’ll be back in the lineup on Sunday versus the Orlando Magic, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
A source spoke with MacMahon on Friday and estimated that Paul’s shot at returning for his team’s matchup with Orlando was “almost 100 [percent].”
The Rockets are 28-20 after going 65-17 and finishing first in the Western Conference last season, but they’ve done well of late thanks largely to James Harden, who has averaged 42.7 points since Dec. 13. Since losing Paul, the Rockets have gone 12-5.
The team is still without center Clint Capela, who is out for at least a month with a torn right thumb ligament. But the Rockets do have big man Kenneth Faried, who just dropped 21 points and 14 boards in a 121-119 win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday, to stem the tide.
Still, the defense, which finished sixth in efficiency last year, has fallen to tied for 25th in that category. Losing key pieces to last year’s rotation, such as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson, have also hurt the team’s depth. Per NBA.com, the Rockets rank last in scoring and field-goal percentage off the bench.
On Paul’s end, he’s still the same star point guard the league has been used to for a decade-plus. While he is shooting just 41.5 percent from the field, Paul’s defensive prowess hasn’t skipped a beat, as he ranks third among all qualified floor generals in defensive real plus-minus, per ESPN. For the season, he’s averaging 15.6 points, 8.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game.
The Rockets are fifth in a loaded Western Conference where 10 teams are above .500, so Paul’s return is a welcome sight as the team looks to clinch a postseason berth.
Game time for the Rockets’ Sunday matchup with the Magic is 7 p.m. ET at the Toyota Center in Houston.