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Suns get in ‘spirited scrimmage’ as PG Chris Paul remains sidelined

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams calls a play against the Toronto Raptors during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 26, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

While Suns point guard Chris Paul remains in health and safety protocols after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19, that hasn’t stop Phoenix from getting to work.

The Suns hit the gym hard on Friday, focusing on not only themselves, but both of their potential Western Conference Finals opponents: the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz.

With Game 6 between the Clippers and Jazz slated for Friday night, and Los Angeles leading the series 3-2, Phoenix may not have to wait much longer for their next opponent.

“We split time on both teams, just talking about differences between both,” head coach Monty Williams said Friday. “There’s some similarities that they have. Guards dominate the ball, that kinda thing. They have bigs who put pressure on the rim. The difference is the Clippers tend to switch more than the Jazz, so you have to differentiate between those concepts.

“We’ve talked about this being an opportunity. It’s a privilege to be in this position. It’s a little more work but we’ve worked for this opportunity. We don’t see it as a bad thing. We’ve been able to get into the gym and practice. Today we got up and down, played 5-on-5, had a spirited scrimmage.”

If the Clippers win, the Suns are back in action at home on Sunday. If the Jazz take home the Game 6 victory, then a Game 7 will ensue before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. A Utah series win gives it home court advantage over Phoenix.

While the former hands Phoenix the home draw, that could leave Paul’s availability in question, with the team expected to provide a health update on the point guard on Saturday. A Tuesday matchup at least provides more time for Paul to get through health and safety protocols.

It would be a big hit to the Phoenix squad if Paul can’t go early on in the series.

In the team’s sweep over the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, Paul averaged 25.5 points, 10.3 assists and five rebounds over 35.7 minutes per game. He shot an impressive 62.7% from the field and 75% from deep, while averaging just 1.3 turnovers per outing.

But for Friday, it was about digging back in physically regardless of who was present.

“It was fun. Obviously, we love getting time off, rest the body and stuff, but only negative is you get out of rhythm a little bit with playing,” Suns small forward Mikal Bridges said after practice. “It was good to get back, do up and downs. You can tell everyone’s still very much in good shape.”

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