Cam Payne starts in place of Chris Paul for Suns-Nuggets Game 3

May 5, 2023, 6:32 PM

Phoenix Suns Cam Payne...

Phoenix Suns backup point guard Cam Payne warms up before Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Ariz., on May 5, 2023. (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

Phoenix Suns backup point guard Cam Payne will start in place of the injured Chris Paul in Game 3 against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night at Footprint Center, the team announced.

Suns head coach Monty Williams played it close to the vest when asked pregame about who would start in place of Paul.

“We’ll see,” he told reporters before the official starting lineup cards were released.

Phoenix officially ruled out Paul on Thursday after he suffered a left groin strain in Game 2’s 97-87 loss at Ball Arena in Denver.

The Suns are reportedly preparing to be without their starting point guard through Game 5, who is listed as day-to-day and will be re-evaluated next week.

Paul turns 38 years old on Saturday.

Payne has played just over 24 minutes for the Suns since April 7 when he fell on his lower back in a 121-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

He made his return from lower-back soreness with a 3:16-minute showing on April 25 in Phoenix’s 136-130 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 5 to clinch the first-round series. Payne didn’t score but picked up two assists in that game.

The 28-year-old then scored five points and had one assist and three rebounds over 5:09 in the 125-107 Game 1 loss to the Denver Nuggets on April 29.

Payne saw a large uptick in his minutes at 16:42 in Game 2 on Monday after Paul’s departure in the third quarter, scoring two points to go along with one dime, one board and one steal.

During the regular season, the Suns backup point guard averaged 10.3 points, 4.5 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game in 48 games while playing an average of 20.2 minutes in those contests.

Tip-off for Suns-Nuggets Game 3 is scheduled for 7 p.m. on 98.7, the Arizona Sports app and

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