Paul still questionable for Game 3 in LA

( - The Los Angeles Clippers return to the Staples Center tied 1-1 in their Western Conference semifinal series with the Houston Rockets, but a big question still looms for Game 3 Friday night.

Chris Paul, who missed both games in Houston with a hamstring strain, ramped up activities on Thursday, but is still questionable for Game 3.

"As far as the improvement, I don't know," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Thursday. "I guess you can say the improvement was that he went from really doing nothing to yesterday a pretty hard workout. Today he is having a workout on the floor so I think those are the right steps. I am not sure exactly what steps are next. There will be tests from our trainers then how he feels. With the hamstring, there is no gauge. So I think that is what we are going to look for."

The Clippers came off an emotional, and sensational, Game 7 victory over the San Antonio Spurs last Saturday, and less than 48 hours later, stole Game 1 in Houston without Paul.

Things didn't go quite as well in Game 2.

The Rockets' stars did their job Wednesday as James Harden got back on track with 32 points and Dwight Howard tallied 24 with 16 rebounds, but it was Houston's near historic free throw shooting that stole the headlines.

Houston took 64 foul shots, two shy of an NBA all-time playoff high, in the 115-109 win.

The Rockets finished 42-for-64 from the stripe, led by Harden's perfect 15- for-15. They outscored Los Angeles by 17 points from the line and pulled off the win despite making five less field goals.

Game 2 was tight until very late.

A 10-2 run had Los Angeles within 111-107 with a minute left, and Corey Brewer air-balled a runner at the other end to give the Clippers life. But Austin Rivers, starting his second straight game for Paul, lost the ball out of bounds and Howard sank two free throws at the other end.

"Dwight was just good all night," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "Solid in the paint, big in there. He played great basketball."

Blake Griffin followed up his Game 1 triple-double with 34 points and 15 rebounds, but the free throw discrepancy was too much for Los Angeles to overcome.

"I thought this was the first game we didn't trust one another," Doc Rivers said. "The ball didn't move, and we got stuck trying to get the ball to Blake so much."

Trevor Ariza scored 15 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for Houston. Brewer, who was fined $5,000 by the NBA for flopping, added 11, followed by 10 apiece from Terrence Jones and Jason Terry.

Jamal Crawford scored 19 off the bench for the Clippers, while DeAndre Jordan managed 16 points and 12 rebounds. J.J. Redick chipped in 12 points and Austin Rivers managed 10.

The Rockets defeated LA at the Staples Center on March 15 to snap a seven-game road losing streak to the Clippers.

Game 4 will be Sunday night in Los Angeles.