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It’s official: The ‘Point God’ is back for the Suns in Game 3

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Chris Paul is available for Phoenix for the first time since June 13

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns starting point guard Chris Paul is available to play for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, according to a team announcement.

Paul has not played since the Suns’ Game 4 win over the Denver Nuggets of the Western Conference semifinals on June 13 due to health and safety protocols. Phoenix’s last two games were the first time Paul was not available for it since its 119-113 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 8.

It is likely that Paul, who is averaging 15.7 points, 8.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds on 50.9 percent shooting this postseason, will return to the Suns’ starting lineup after backup point guard Cameron Payne took his place in the first two games against the Clippers. Payne averaged 20.0 points, 9.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.5 turnovers in those contests, including a 29-point, nine-assist outing in Game 2 on 12-of-24 shooting in which he had zero turnovers,

On Thursday’s pregame availability with reporters, Suns starting forward Jae Crowder confirmed that Paul was back with the team and said it was “great” for team morale.

“He’s one of our main leaders on this team,” Crowder said. “He’s a guy who has a voice in our locker room. So once you take that away from us, obviously, it’s definitely difficult for us, but we have to get it done. And when you give us that back, obviously, it definitely brings a joy, a sense of togetherness that all our guys are back together and one of our leaders is back with us.”

Paul, a 15-year veteran who was named an All-NBA second-team selection this season, is looking to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in his career. The Suns have not made the championship round since 1992-93, when they lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in six games.