Now here was Paul staring down Curry midway through the third quarter of the Rockets' 98-94 Game 5 win over the Warriors on Thursday.
On Friday, the Rockets announced that Paul will not play in Game 6 and will be evaluated further when the team returns to Houston. "But, yeah, [I need to] probably mix it up a bit and see where I can get different catches and touches because they're kind of figuring stuff out for us".
When Houston won the game, Paul limped - very slowly - back to Houston's locker room, where he didn't speak to reporters after the game because he was receiving getting treatment.
In our Game 5 takeaways, we look at why the tenor of this series has shifted, and whether it will shift back.
His team, the defending National Basketball Association champions, is on the verge of elimination for the first time since Kevin Durant joined forces with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Just like Cleveland in the East, a run of three straight trips to the championship round is on the verge of ending. "We're a group of champions", Green said. He'd been the tip of the spear of a physical Rockets defense that's often been dominant in this series, forcing the Warriors - one of the best-assembled rosters and perhaps greatest dynasties in National Basketball Association history - out of their comfort zone.
Down by one with less than 15 seconds left, two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry missed one of his patented running lay-ups.
"When we were kind of teetering he made two or three threes - that's just his heart".
Green was asked what was supposed to happen on the play.
"We was supposed to score", he said. "I lost the ball. not much more to it than that".
"Who cares", he said. It was as if the basketball gods exacted a price from the Rockets: Yes, we will allow you a shot at upending this dynasty, but you must sacrifice one of your own.
Klay Thompson shook off a knee injury that had his status for this game in question to score 23 points and Curry added 22.
That sense of destiny has been put on hold thanks to the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets, who now both find themselves in control of their respective conference finals series over those aforementioned teams.
Should the Warriors win Saturday, Game 7 will be Monday back in Houston.
Paul injured his hamstring late in the fourth quarter of Game 5 Thursday night when he landed after a missed jump shot. But trying to close out this Warriors team without Paul will be a monumental challenge for the Rockets.