Suns’ Chris Paul (hip) Game 3 vs. Out to the Nuggets

Suns coach Monty Williams talks about how his team will adjust to Chris Paul being out of the lineup.

If the Phoenix Suns are to win Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Denver Nuggets, they will be without their star point guard.

There is Chris Paul Officially rejected Friday’s Game 3 at Phoenix (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) suffered a sore left groin in Game 2 of the series with the Suns trailing 2–0. In his absence, the team will turn to backup point guard Cameron Payne to fill in until he leaves.

„We’ve been in situations like this before where we’ve had guys go down and a lot of guys have stepped up,” Suns coach Monty Williams said Thursday. „We’re hoping some changes in the lineup will help us, not just Cam Payne.”

Three-time All-Star Devin Booker said the team went over potential scenarios over the past few days. In a different schedule, the Nuggets and Suns have three days off between Games 2 and 3.

„You can’t replace what Chris brings to the team,” Booker said Wednesday. „He’ll still be there, be a leader, be a voice, but he’s going to have to find other ways to make the things he does on the court pay off.”

The good news for the Suns is that they have thrived through a similar situation in the playoffs.

During the team’s run to the 2021 Finals, Paul suffered a shoulder injury that limited him to several games in the opening round. He missed the first two games of the Western Conference Finals against the Clippers after being placed in the Covid-19 protocol.

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Backup Payne was fantastic in Ball’s absence, scoring 29 points in a Game 2 win over the Clippers, the best performance of his career.

The 6-foot-1 Payne was limited to 48 games during the regular season due to a variety of injuries, but when healthy he averaged 10.3 points per game. He missed most of the Suns’ first-round series against the LA Clippers with a back injury, but has played some of the last three games.

Payne’s unorthodox, herky-jerky style of play has proven effective during his time with the Suns. He won’t be the only bench player for Phoenix to step up on Friday. Landry Shamet, Terrence Ross, Damion Lee and TJ Warren could see big roles.

„Obviously we’re going to miss Chris and what he brings to the table,” star forward Kevin Durant said Thursday. „We just have to go out and play our games together. We try not to think about it too much.

The Nuggets won the first two games of the series by double figures, 125-107 in Game 1 and 97-87 in Game 2.

„Chris Ball, Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet, whatever, our game plan is the same,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Wednesday. “We know that Devin Booker and Kevin Durant are two great players. They keep their home crowd in front of them. 2-0 down, we’re going to get their best effort and we’ve got to get over it.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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