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Suns PG Chris Paul listed as probable, expected to play in Game 3

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul celebrates after forcing a turnover during the second half in Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, May 30, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Already up 2-0 against the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Finals, the Phoenix Suns could receive about as big of a boost as they can imagine for Game 3 on Thursday.

All-NBA Second Team point guard Chris Paul was upgraded on the Phoenix Suns injury report to probable.

For the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard was listed as out as he continues to recover from a right knee sprain.

Paul has been cleared through cardiac testing, the final step in COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes reported Wednesday. Barring a setback, he is expected to return for Game 3.

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro and ESPN had reported that Paul was expected to be cleared prior to the game at Staples Center.

Paul has not played since a conference semifinals Game 4 victory on June 13 that completed a sweep of the Denver Nuggets.

Whether he will be ready to go or on a minutes restriction having taken more than a week off from being with his team remains to be seen.

“We certainly would see where he’s at when that time comes, but that’s hard to make that judgment just because COVID is so different,” Suns coach Monty Williams said before the Suns’ 104-103 Game 2 victory in Phoenix.

“I’m sure if I tried to keep Chris out of the game, we’d have to square off and go toe-to-toe. So we’ll just make that assessment when the time comes.”

On June 16, it was revealed that Paul was placed in the league’s protocols. Paul tested positive for COVID-19 despite taking the Pfizer vaccine in February, according to Gambadoro.

That had the Suns optimistic for his return. Haynes reported after Phoenix’s Game 1 win over the Clippers on Sunday that Paul was asymptomatic, which could allow him to clear the health and safety protocols sooner.

By the NBA’s rules, players must either wait 10 days after testing positive and show no symptoms for at least 24 hours or — the more likely option for a vaccinated player — receive two back-to-back PCR tests at least 24 hours apart. There are also cardiac tests involved.

Although Paul reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated, such breakthrough infections are extremely rare in Arizona.

Only around 2,000 COVID-19 cases have been documented among the approximately 3 million people fully vaccinated in the state, the Arizona Department of Health Services told KTAR News 92.3 FM as of June 14.

Catch Game 3 of the Clippers-Suns Western Conference Finals series on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

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