first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Since the Clippers have been so depleted by injuries this season, the Goon Squad’s membership has been flexible. Williams started with Milos Teodosic in the backcourt Saturday,, with Reed at center in place of the injured DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin and Tyrone Wallace at forward.Jordan sat out Saturday because of a sprained ankle, the first time in his 10-season career he’s been sidelined by an injury. Jordan was the last of the Clippers’ opening-night starters to sit out because an injury. Griffin, Teodosic, Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari also have been sidelined.With a rotation that varies from game to game and sometimes from quarter to quarter because of all the injuries, Clippers coach Doc Rivers has adjusted on the fly. Steady play from the Clippers’ reserves sparked their four-game winning streak and their return to .500 at 21-21.“They play hard, they play together, they all understand each others’ strengths and we try not to talk about any of their weaknesses,” Doc Rivers said. “We stay away from it. We just don’t talk about them. We only talk about their strengths and that’s all they talk about too.“I think that’s been good for them.”Paul, now the quarterback of the Rockets’ high-powered offense, played six seasons with the Clippers, leading the league in steals, assists, or both, during five of them.When healthy, he and the Rockets have looked as good as any team in the league, but they have been streaky because of their own nagging injuries. They had a 14-game winning streak, then followed it with a five-game skid, including the Dec. 22 game against the Clippers as Paul missed three contests.The Rockets lost seven of nine during that stretch, but have rebounded to win their last three games as they are learning how to win without All-Star James Harden. A hamstring injury has kept Harden out of action since Dec. 31 and he isn’t expected back until the end of the week, meaning he is not expected to face the Clippers.Paul, who missed 21 games for the Clippers last season, has missed 17 so far this season. In 24 games, he is averaging 18.6 points, 9.2 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals and his 3-point shooting (38 percent) and free-throw shooting (92 percent) are above his career averages. With Harden sidelined, Paul has averaged 28.7 points, 8.7 assists and 7.7 rebounds during their three-game winning streak.If the Clippers are to slow him, the Goon Squad will need to be a factor.MILESTONE MOMENTJordan has played in 714 career games, all with the Clippers. His next appearance will tie him with Randy Smith for the most in Clippers history. It was to have happened Saturday, but the Clippers held out Jordan because of a sprained left ankle suffered in Thursday’s win over the Kings.News services contributed to this story. The Goon Squad is the Clippers’ nickname for their explosive second unit, led by Lou Williams, who has become a starter because of injuries but still retains ties to the backups. He has scored 20 points or more in 12 consecutive games and averages a team-leading 23.1 points.“I am the leader of the Goon Squad,” Williams said Saturday, after scoring 26 points in the Clippers’ victory over the Sacramento Kings, their fourth win in a row. “I started only six games this season, so I can’t really call myself a starter. I am still a bench guy.”Well, actually, it’s 12 starts and it’s likely to be 13 when the Clippers face the Rockets (30-11).Williams was one in the package of players the Clippers received from the Rockets in exchange for Paul in a blockbuster offseason trade that gave the rosters of both teams a makeover. The Goon Squad is a relatively new name for the Clippers’ new bench players.Under normal circumstances, the Goon Squad would be comprised of Williams and fellow guards Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell, plus forwards Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell and Wesley Johnson and center Willie Reed. Dekker and Harrell also arrived from Houston in the Paul trade.center_img Chris Paul meets the Goon Squad on Monday.Paul has already made his return to Staples Center with the Houston Rockets, playing against the Lakers on Dec. 3. The Rockets and Clippers have already played once this season, Dec. 22 in Houston, although he sat out because of an injury.He hasn’t faced the Goon Squad yet.“I understand the game and all that stuff,” the All-Star guard told reporters of the importance of Monday’s game after the Rockets’ practiced Sunday morning at UCLA. “Tomorrow is not about me. It’s about us and doing what we came out here to do.”last_img

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