The Houston Rockets draw one of the NBA’s marquee matchups on Wednesday night when they face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams have been on a roll as of late, although the Rockets have managed to do so without one of their best players in Chris Paul. Regardless, this nationally televised matchup should be one of the best of the night for a variety of reasons.
Not only is the matchup of Antetokounmpo against James Harden appealing, but the Bucks (28-11) have won six of their last seven and 10 of 12. Over this stretch, and even prior to it, Giannis has cemented his case as one of the top candidates for the NBA Most Valuable Player Award. He’s averaged 26.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game while shooting 58.3 percent from the field.
But as exceptional as the Bucks star has been this season, the recent play of Harden is eye-opening. Since Paul went down with a groin injury, Harden has been on fire while dominating in every way. He’s led the Rockets to a 7-1 record, including wins over the Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Rockets enter this game with a 23-16 overall record and we’re going to break down their roster, starting lineup and the latest on Paul’s injury ahead of the high-profile matchup.
Rockets Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Bucks
*Notates expected starter
C: Clint Capela*, Nene Hilario
PF: P.J. Tucker*, Marquese Chriss
SF: Danuel House*, James Ennis, Gary Clark
SG: Austin Rivers*, Gerald Green
PG: James Harden*, Brandon Knight
While much has been made about Paul’s absence, the fact guard Eric Gordon is also out with knee soreness has been tough for the team’s depth. Regardless, other players have stepped up with the two guards out. Specifically, we’ve seen Austin Rivers, who’s only been with the Rockets for seven games, play 40-plus minutes in each of the past four. In the three games to start January, he’s averaged 14.3 points and 3.7 assists while holding down a big role.
Gerald Green has also taken on a larger workload and upped his scoring as of late, while Clint Capela has posted a few monster stat lines. Over the past three games, Capela has averaged 24.3 points and 17.0 rebounds per game while shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
The Rockets will rely heavily on Harden, though, regardless of who’s playing well, as he’s thrived as of late. The reigning MVP has scored 32 or more points in each of the eight games since Paul was sidelined while going for 38-plus on seven occasions.
Latest on Chris Paul’s Injury & Timeline for Return
There was a mixture of good and bad news on Paul’s status, but the overall outlook is less than ideal. As ESPN’s Stefano Fusaro reported, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni revealed on Tuesday that Paul will miss another 2-3 weeks. He also pointed out the fact that they don’t want to bring him back too early.
For what it’s worth, Ben DuBose of Locked on Rockets showed Paul getting some on-court work in prior to the team’s game against the Denver Nuggets just one day before the latest update.
As things currently stand, it seems a timeframe of around late-January or early-February would make sense for Paul to return to action. On a bright note, the veteran guard looked good during his recent workout above.