Chris Paul Available for Suns vs. Clippers Game 3 After Clearing COVID Protocols

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2021

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) in the first half of Game 4 of an NBA second-round playoff series Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul will return to the team's lineup for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

Law Murray of The Athletic reported Paul is "officially available" after being listed as probable.

Paul helped carry the Suns into the matchup with the Clippers by averaging 25.5 points, 10.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals during their four-game sweep against the Denver Nuggets in the previous round. He entered the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols following that series on June 16.

The 36-year-old Wake Forest product missed the first two games against L.A. in the conference finals, but Phoenix still managed to grab a 2-0 series lead thanks to a dominant Game 1 from Devin Booker and some last-second heroics from Deandre Ayton in Game 2.

Cameron Payne, a key bench asset for the Suns throughout the playoffs, should slide into the starting lineup if Paul misses more time during the postseason run. E'Twaun Moore is also a candidate for some extra minutes as part of the backcourt rotation in those situations.

Although Phoenix's depth players have stepped up when called upon, the team is far more dangerous when Paul is orchestrating the offense and with Payne providing a spark with the second unit. Having the 11-time All-Star on the floor will be essential as the Suns try to chase down the franchise's first NBA title.