Cam Payne lights up court for Phoenix Suns in Chris Paul’s absence

May 25, 2021, 11:10 PM | Updated: May 26, 2021, 11:49 am
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MAY 25: Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns reacts to a three-point shot again...
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MAY 25: Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns reacts to a three-point shot against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of Game Two of the Western Conference first-round playoff series at Phoenix Suns Arena on May 25, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It was Cam Payne’s game Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 26-year-old stepped up in a huge way to ease the load of veteran Chris Paul, whose minutes were limited due to the shoulder injury he suffered in Game 1.

Paul played a total of 23 minutes and spent most of the second half on the sideline.

“It’s always tough to see anybody from our team down and can’t really help us out,” Payne said of Paul postgame.

“It was tough but you know we got next man mentality, so everybody’s got to be ready.”

Payne took that next man up mentality to heart. He finished the night with 19 points, seven assists and three rebounds in 33 minutes played — more time than all but two of the Suns’ starters.

The guard’s biggest shot of the night came with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Payne drilled a 3 that tied up the game at 86-86 and gave the Suns momentum to briefly take the lead on a Deandre Ayton dunk.

He later fouled out in the last few seconds of the game.

Payne called his performance “just playing free,” but also credited his shift in mentality this season to keep his head down and focus on what he’s doing on the court.

“I work hard. I work to keep my job. I’ve got to earn it all,” he said. “I go in humble, but confident. I just have to keep working hard and the work shows. Go in and get my reps.”

Head coach Monty Williams was impressed, but not shocked that the young player stepped up to the challenge.

“That’s what he does. He got to the basket and made plays,” Williams said. “He certainly can step outside and he’s not afraid to take big shots, especially 3s … He’s certainly a weapon and an asset for us off of the bench and with Chris being down tonight, we needed him to step up and he did.”

With the series now tied 1-1, the Suns will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers in Game 3 at the Staples Center on Thursday.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Catch all the action on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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