After turning in a couple big performances in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals – both Suns wins – Cameron Payne was forced to leave Game 3 on Thursday after playing just four minutes. The veteran point guard suffered a sprained left ankle, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes.
With Payne unavailable, the Suns leaned heavily on Chris Paul, who logged 39 minutes in his first game back after clearing the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Head coach Monty Williams admitted after the game that he didn’t plan to play Paul so much and that he’s hopeful Payne will be available for Game 4 on Saturday to back up the team’s All-NBA point guard.
“Not having Cam to spell Chris put us in a bit of a bind,” Williams said, per McMenamin. “So hopefully (Payne) can come back and play in the next game.”
Here’s more on the Suns:
- Paul, who spent eight days in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, said he got the bad news last week from Suns senior director of health and performance Brady Howe, according to McMenamin. “I was laying in bed with my kids and got a text from Brady,” Paul said. “It is what it is. I dealt with it. Anybody with kids, anytime you’re going through something, the hardest part is being away from your kids and your family. Once you get over the shock of what’s happening, to hell with how and why. You just start figuring out how you can get better.”
- After breaking his nose in Game 2 of the Western Finals, Devin Booker received eight shots of a numbing agent and had his nose reset back into place prior to Game 3, says McMenamin. Booker had to wear a face mask in Game 3 and struggled mightily, making just 5-of-21 shots from the floor, but he said he wasn’t affected by the injury or the mask. “The nose feels fine,” Booker said. “We just lost the game.”
- The Suns faced some criticism over the years for passing on Luka Doncic with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, but Deandre Ayton has developed into exactly what the team needed, according to Royce Young of ESPN. “He’s just turning into a really dominant player, on both ends of the floor,” Williams said of his center.