THIS IS THE OPEN THREAD FOR SUNS-LAKERS
Phoenix Suns starting point guard Chris Paul has “gotten better over the last couple of days” and will be “full-go” in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs on Thursday night, Suns coach Monty Williams told reporters in his pregame press conference.
Paul, who suffered a right shoulder contusion in the first half of Game 1, was pulled from Tuesday’s Game 2 by Williams with just over seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Suns, who tied the game at 86 shortly before Paul’s departure, later succumbed to an 11-2 Laker that led to Los Angeles’ 109-102 victory to tie the series at one game each.
Williams told reporters before Thursday’s game that he will be looking to see if Paul “can make the passes and the plays he typically makes” while deciding whether or not to keep him in. Paul had just six points, five assists and three rebounds in 23 minutes in Tuesday’s loss and played just 6:41 in the second half.
“I thought last game, he was laboring a bit more than I had seen in the first half,” Williams said. “In the second half, it was a bit more, so that’s why I made the call to pull him. But I’m going to watch and see if he can make kinds of plays and I’ll watch him, his face to see if I see the same look from him that I typically see on a night-in, night-out basis.”
Williams said he did not talk to Paul or Phoenix’s medical staff about possibly sitting Paul for Game 3.
Without Paul on the floor on Tuesday, backup point guard Cameron Payne earned extensive action and finished with 19 points, seven assists and three rebounds in nearly 33 minutes. After his team fell in a 15-point third-quarter deficit, Payne led the Suns’ efforts to tie the game by scoring or assisting on 19 of their 29 points from 6:03 remaining in the third quarter to 7:04 left in the fourth, including a deep 3-pointer to tie the game at 86.
If Paul is not at full strength, Payne will likely be called upon again to play more minutes at point guard. The Suns rated as the seventh-slowest team in pace during the regular season, though Payne gives them an opportunity to play more quickly, something that could be beneficial in beating a stout Laker defense down the floor.