“Honestly, it’s just holding it down for (starting point guard) [Chris Paul],” Payne said. “It’s kind of crazy, but I’m just trying to hold it down until C gets back.”
With Paul unavailable for the second straight game due to health and safety protocols, Payne did more than holding things down for the Suns. His career-high 29-point night on 12-of-24 shooting and nine assists arguably carried them to a 2-0 series lead over the Clippers.
Payne had 16 of his points in the first half, helping Phoenix overcome an off night from starting shooting guard Devin Booker and starting forward Mikal Bridges, who shot a combined 3-of-13 in the frame. Payne then had seven of his points in the third quarter on 3-of-4 shooting, when the Suns built a lead as large as eight.
Payne then finished with five of his nine assists in the fourth quarter, giving Phoenix an opportunity to close and put a vice grip on the Clippers.
“Cam Payne was tremendous tonight,” said Suns coach Monty Williams. “His ability to get into the paint and score the ball was huge for us.”
Payne tied Booker and Ayton for a team-high plus-4 and was critical to the Suns’ efforts in the paint and transition. Phoenix won the battle in points in the paint 60-30 and turned 10 Clipper turnovers into 17 points.
Chris Paul may be out but here's the benefit you get with Cam Payne: An extra burst in transition and cornering speed along the baseline. #Suns on a 9-0 run, up 11-8 w/ 7:03 left in the first. pic.twitter.com/UyGoRNVeR2— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) June 23, 2021
Here’s what Payne had to say about his career night.
On his reaction to the play that led to Ayton’s game-winning lob:
“When I seen the ball, I’m like, ‘Man, DA just dunked it.’ But to piggy-back off of his (starting shooting guard Devin Booker’s) answer, at the end of the game, you can get away with a lot of stuff. That’s an unselfish play by [Booker], that’s big time. That’s big time. He sacrificed, made a screen, somebody else scored. A lot of players won’t do that in his position, so kudos to him. He big time for that.”
On a career-high of 29 points on 12-of-24 shooting and nine assists without Paul available:
Cam Payne's Instagram name is 'Smooth CP' and we're seeing why.— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) June 23, 2021
Crafty up-and-under. 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting in 22 minutes. #Suns up 59-54 with 7:44 left in the third. pic.twitter.com/rPN8mr2xSD
“Honestly, it’s just holding it down for C. It’s kind of crazy, but I’m just trying to hold it down until C gets back. If it means me scoring, I’m willing to do it. If it means me passing — my only thing is, no turnovers. That’s the only thing, I’m trying to keep that same identity, because I’m the point guard. So I just try to come out there, hold it down for C, play my game and just live with the results.”
If he’s been talking to Paul in his absence:
“For sure. I talk to C every day. Like I said, I’m trying to hold it down. Trust me — C is calling, and I probably got missed calls already. C is going to call, but that’s what he do though. That’s why he is who he is. He constantly communicates — a lot of people don’t do that, especially in his position, a lot of people don’t do that. His communication is at a high level, and that’s big time for our team.”