Chris Paul from the Phoenix Suns suffered a shoulder injury in a Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, and was limited in Game 2’s loss, allowing the Lakers to tie the series 1-1. Paul will be a game-time decision for the Suns in Game 3, but if he can’t play on Thursday evening, backup point guard Cameron Payne will fill in for CP3.

Chris Paul CP3 shoulder injury Phoenix Suns LA Lakers Game 3 Playoffs NBA
Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns fell to the floor with a shoulder injury during the second quarter of Game 1 against the LA Lakers. (Image: Getty)

The Suns and Lakers set the tone for a hyper-physical series from the opening tip in Game 1. The vibe felt more like a playoff series from the brutish 1990s, and Paul was an early casualty. A one-armed Paul led the Suns to a Game 1 victory, but he was ineffective in Game 2.

If the Suns don’t have their 11-time All-Star for the remainder of the series, they’ll be hard-pressed to defeat LeBron James and the Lakers on their home turf. The Suns are a +7 underdog heading into Game 3, which will be the first game played at Staples Center in downtown LA.

Game 3: #2 Phoenix Suns (1-1) at #7 LA Lakers (1-1)
  • Tip-off: 7:00 pm PT
  • Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles
  • Point Spread: LAL -7
  • Total: 210.5 o/u
  • Money Line: PHX +240 / LA -280
  • Series Line: PHX +245 / LA -310

The Lakers are favorites to win the first-round series at -310 odds, according to DraftKings. The Suns are +245 odds to advance to the Western Conference semifinals.

The Lakers are +350 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship as the second-highest team on the futures board. The Suns slipped to +3500 odds after Paul suffered the shoulder injury.

Game 3: Cameron Payne next man up for Suns

During the second quarter of Game 1, Paul fell to the floor in agony as the entire arena in Phoenix fell silent. He was assisted off the court by his teammates.

Paul gutted out the pain in Game 2, but was ineffective with just six points and five assists in 23 minutes of action. Suns head coach Monty Williams sat Paul with more than half of the fourth quarter remaining in a tied game. The Suns missed their veteran point guard down the stretch and were outscored 23-16 by the Lakers, who pulled off a huge victory to even the series at 1-1.

“It’s pretty obvious,” said Williams. “He’s not able to make the passes that he wants. That’s one. He was laboring tonight. I don’t want to get into too many details until I talk to him about it. But you could see that his arm wasn’t working, he wasn’t even running the way that he ran and dribbled the ball this morning.”

If Paul can’t answer the bell for Game 3, Williams will rely on back-up point guard Cameron Payne to absorb CP3’s minutes. Payne came off the bench in Game 2 and logged 33 minutes for the Suns. He tallied 19 points, seven assists, three rebounds, two blocks, and one steal. He shot 3-for-7 from 3-point range and hit all four of his free throws.

Payne averaged 8.4 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.4 rebounds in 18 minutes of action per game with the Suns this season. He only took three 3-pointers per game, but shot 44% from beyond the arc.

“It’s gonna be tough, but we all have to step up,” said Booker.

CP3: A long history of postseason injuries

Paul has a long and dark history of suffering an injury in the playoffs. In 2015, when he played with the LA Clippers, a hamstring injury sidelined Paul and doomed the Clips. In 2016, Paul fractured his hand against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Clips made another premature exit.

During the 2018 NBA playoffs with the Houston Rockets, Paul suffered a hamstring injury while playing. They were up 3-2 against the Golden State Warriors, but without Paul, the Rockets were eliminated in seven games. The Suns hope Paul’s current injury isn’t another harbinger of doom, but the outlook doesn’t look good.

If the Suns expect to edge out the Lakers, they’ll need stellar performances from Payne and Booker.

Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA playoffs.

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