Chris Paul is a proven winner in the NBA. Kyrie Irving is well on his way.
Irving, though, has missed the last two games for the Cleveland Cavaliers with a hyperextended right knee and is questionable Friday versus the Los Angeles Clippers at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavaliers are hopeful the All-Star Irving will return, but have won both games he has missed with backup Shaun Livingston as his replacement. Acquired off waivers in late December, Livingston has recorded 15 points and more than 30 minutes on the floor in each game Irving has been sidelined.
In a 103-92 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, rookie Dion Waiters had 23 points and Tristan Thompson contributed 14 and eight rebounds in Cleveland's fourth victory in the last five games. The Cavs, who are 7-4 in the past 11 games, used a 37-23 advantage in the second quarter to open a five-game homestand on a positive note. They shot 41.5 percent for the game scored 20 points off 15 Toronto turnovers.
"He understands what he has to do when Kyrie is not there, because we asked him to do a little bit more with the ball," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said of Waiters. "Over the last few games, he's done a good job."
Waiters, a solid candidate for Rookie of the Year, has scored 20 or more points in each of the previous three games and has 11 games with that many points this season. He leads all Eastern Conference rookies in points per game (14.8), assists per game (3.2) and steals per game (1.0).
Cleveland, which averaged 106.4 ppg in 12 games last month, is 11-16 at home and will also host New York, Utah and Memphis on the current homestand.
The Clippers. meanwhile, have won three in a row and seven of their last eight games, including Thursday's thrilling 99-91 win at Indiana.
Los Angeles overcame the Pacers' 13-0 run in the fourth quarter thanks to Paul, who scored the team's last eight points down the stretch. Paul, the MVP of the All-Star game, finished with 29 points and eight assists, and his two baskets late in the game pushed the lead to 97-91 with 31.3 seconds to go.
"Chris made some unbelievable plays down the stretch. He's a closer and we're lucky to have him," said Clippers main reserve Jamal Crawford, who recorded 23 points and returned after missing a game for the birth of his daughter.
All-Star Blake Griffin managed to score 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. He has posted at least 17 points, seven rebounds and two assists in eight straight games. Griffin leads L.A. with 18.6 ppg and is averaging 19.5 ppg in his last eight.
Clippers DeAndre Jordan took an elbow to the nose against the Pacers and was limited to less than 10 minutes on the floor and four points. He should be ready to go Friday night against the Cavs. Los Angeles is 19-12 as the guest and will play two straight and five of six games at home following Friday's matchup with the Cavaliers.
The Clippers, who lead the Pacific Division by eight games over Golden State and are third in the West, dropped a 108-101 home decision to Cleveland on Nov. 5 this season. The Cavs have owned the Clippers recently to the tune of two straight and 11 of 12 wins.
Los Angeles has dropped 10 in a row and 16 of 18 in the Forest City. The Cavs have an all-time record of 15-2 versus the Clippers at the Q.
The Sports Network