It’s been a wild and weird postseason for Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns, and their rags-to-riches storyline took another unexpected plot twist when CP3 tested positive for COVID-19. The Suns placed Paul into quarantine on Wednesday and he’s out indefinitely, according to the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Paul survived a shoulder stinger in the opening game of the first round against the LA Lakers and helped the up-and-coming Suns knock out the defending champions. Paul looked sensational during a second-round sweep against the Denver Nuggets.
The Suns are lucky that they swept the Nuggets, which provided an extra week off before the start of the Western Conference finals. That window might give Paul enough time to post multiple negative tests in a row and return to the team. The Suns will provide a COVID-19 update and status report on Paul on Saturday.
“My faith isn’t going to waver now because we’ve had a few obstacles,” said head coach Monty Williams. “We’ve had obstacles all season long and gotten through a lot of stuff. You look forward to these challenges, you embrace them, and you move forward.”
The #2 Suns will meet the winner of the #1 Utah Jazz and #4 Los Angeles Clippers series. The Clippers lost Kawhi Leonard to an ACL strain, but they still pulled off a victory in Game 5 without their superstar. The Clippers hold a 3-2 lead over the top-seeded Utah Jazz.
Suns sweep, lose CP3 to COVID
A lot of old-school veterans believed Paul should have won the 2021 NBA MVP instead of Nikola Jokic. The Suns secured the #2 seed in the Western Conference after missing the 2020 NBA playoffs, which mostly had to do with Paul joining the team.
Paul provided the inexperienced Suns with leadership this season and he also mentored rising star Devin Booker. The results have been extraordinary, with the Suns posting the second-best record in the NBA this season at 51-21. And now, the Suns are just four wins away from securing a berth in the NBA Finals and eight victories away from an NBA championship.
Paul dominated the Nuggets in the West semifinals, averaging 25.5 points and 10.3 assists per game. He scored a season-high 37 points in the close-out Game 4 to complete the sweep. If Paul misses the start of the Western Conference Finals, Williams will tap backup point guard Cameron Payne to fill in. Payne paid his dues as a journeyman from the G League who finally got a chance to become a valuable part of a title contender.
In the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Payne averaged 12.5 ppg and shot 40.5% from 3-point range against the Lakers, while absorbing a lot of Paul’s minutes after the shoulder injury slowed him down.
During the regular season, Payne averaged 8.4 points and 3.6 assists per game, and he also shot 44% from 3-point range.
Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.