PHOENIX SUNS

Suns PG Cam Payne available for Game 5; Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard, Paul George out

Apr 25, 2023, 5:15 PM | Updated: 5:25 pm

Phoenix Suns Cam Payne...

Phoenix Suns backup point guard Cam Payne. (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

Phoenix Suns backup point guard Cam Payne (lower back soreness) is available for Tuesday night’s Game 5 against the Los Angeles Clippers, the team announced pregame.

Suns head coach Monty Williams added that Payne will be on a minutes restriction.

Meanwhile, the Clippers announced Monday that stars Kawhi Leonard (right knee sprain) and Paul George (right knee sprain) will miss Game 5 at Footprint Center.

Payne has not played since April 7 when he fell on his lower back in a 121-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The 28-year-old averaged 10.3 points, 4.5 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game in 48 contests this season while playing an average of 20.2 minutes in those matchups.

His return could help provide a spark for a Suns bench unit that has scored the fewest amount of points of any team in the Western Conference playoffs.

Payne could also give Chris Paul and Devin Booker a little more rest during games, as the soon-to-be 38-year-old Paul is averaging nearly 39 minutes per contest this series while Booker is close to 44 minutes per matchup.

L.A. head coach Tyronn Lue said Monday that there was still a possibility Leonard could play despite missing the past two games with a knee sprain.

“He’s definitely hurt, it’s not load management where he’s taking time off,” Lue told reporters. “He’s shown in the past that he’s played through injuries in the playoffs so if it’s something he can play through, it has to be pretty serious.

“We’re not talking about he’s sitting because of load management or he’s tired. It’s nothing like that. It’s an actual thing. What the outside is saying, who cares?”

Lue’s comments come after TNT’s Chris Haynes reported on Saturday that Leonard had swelling in his knee following Game 2 and into the weekend.

When he’s on the court, Leonard has been a nemesis for Phoenix. Through two playoff game appearances, Leonard is averaging 34.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and six assists across 40 minutes per contest. He’s shooting 54.5% from the field and 60% from long range.

The status of George playing in a potential Game 6 or 7 remains murky at best.

“Whatever he’s doing right now. … Get your camcorders out,” Lue said when asked where George’s health was at. “That’s what he’ll be doing today.”

George has yet to play this series as he deals with a knee injury he suffered in March.

In 56 regular season games, George averaged 23.8 points on 45.7% shooting and 37.1% from long range to go along with 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists across 34.6 minutes per outing.

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