In rising role, Suns PG Cam Payne giving boost off bench vs. Lakers

Jun 2, 2021, 12:28 PM

Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) drives as Los Angeles Lakers center Andre Drummond (2) defend...

Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) drives as Los Angeles Lakers center Andre Drummond (2) defends during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix Suns point guard Cameron Payne has been a pain in the Los Angeles Lakers’ side.

Through five games of the first round of the playoffs, Payne has averaged 13.6 points and 3.8 assists along with 3.4 rebounds.

He has been a great spark off the bench for the Suns, and that was no different in Tuesday’s 115-85 blowout win over the Lakers. Payne finished with 16 points and four rebounds as Phoenix took a 3-2 series lead.

“We’re confident in Cam’s ability,” head coach Monty Williams told reporters postgame.

“That’s been his role for us all year long. His ability to get out and score the ball.”

Payne had arguably the best playoff performance of his career in Game 2 when he ended with a career playoff high 19 points and seven assists along with three rebounds.

The Suns did lose that game, but the backup point guard stepped up after starting point guard Chris Paul did not look like himself. Paul only played 23 minutes because of a stinger he suffered in Game 1.

Paul’s shoulder got tangled up when he was battling Lakers forward LeBron James for a rebound. The Suns point guard returned later in the series opener and has improved over Games 2 through 4, but he seemed to reinjure it Tuesday.

About halfway through the third quarter, with the Suns leading the Lakers 78-45, Paul fell to the floor in pain as he was boxing out Lakers guard Wesley Matthews under the basket. Matthews was charged with a loose ball foul, and Paul, visibly frustrated, went to the sideline to be looked at by athletic trainers.

To prevent any further injury, Williams sent Paul to the locker room for treatment.

Because of Paul’s injury, Payne has been tasked with more minutes. He finished Games 2 and 3 for the Suns and is averaging 5.2 more minutes than he did in the regular season.

He’s not only playing more, but he’s also becoming a bigger part of the offense.

Payne has gone from attempting 6.6 shots per game (8th on the Suns) in the regular season to 11.4 shots per game (2nd) in the playoffs. While doing this, he’s shooting 45.6% from the field and 43.5% from behind the arc.

“He and Chris are two different types of point guards. Chris can score but tends to settle us down and facilitate a little bit more. Cam is an attacker and a scorer who can pass,” Williams said.

“It keeps the defense honest when you have your backup point guard come off the bench and score like that. There’s no let down when he’s scoring like that, and that’s something we value.”

Following the Suns’ Game 5’s blowout victory, Phoenix is now one win away from taking its first playoff series since defeating the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals in 2010.

If the Suns want to make another deep playoff run, they will need Payne to continue providing valuable minutes while on the floor, regardless of Paul’s health.

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In rising role, Suns PG Cam Payne giving boost off bench vs. Lakers