Phoenix Suns: Cameron Payne Injured During Game 3 Loss vs Clippers

Phoenix Suns, Cameron Payne (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Cameron Payne (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns finally cooled down Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, losing Game 3 by a 92-106 score. The Suns shot just 39.8 percent from the floor, their worst mark so far during the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

Devin Booker struggled more than anyone else, going 5-21 from the field while collecting just 15 points. Chris Paul’s triumphant return failed to ignite the team like most expected it too, as he too scored just 15 points, going 5-19 himself.

But other than missing out on a valuable chance to earn a 3-0 series lead, the Suns also lost Cameron Payne during the contest, who missed the game’s second half nursing an apparent ankle injury. With the injury bug on a roll this postseason haven already shelved Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, and partially Paul, the news detailing Payne’s inability to return unfortunately felt all too predictable, and familiar.

Payne appeared to come up limping after rolling his ankle, scrambling for a loose ball toward the first period’s closing moments. He showed some heart trying to come back into the game, but head coach Monty Williams noted how difficult things were for him, and then provided little information after that. Based off recent events though, such as how Irving’s injured ankle went tested, watch for the Suns to conduct MRI tests tomorrow morning, and possibly provide more detailed results during the afternoon.

Playing heavy minutes with Paul formerly out due to NBA health and safety protocols, Payne seemed destined to continue playing a large role for Phoenix even with CP3 back. Averaging 11.1 points, 3.7 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game, the journeyman point guard clearly means a great deal to this Suns team, making his injury that much more heartbreaking.

Payne played arguably his greatest game thus far during his eight-year career only a few days ago, contributing with 29 points and nine assists to a 104-103 Game 2 victory over the Clippers. He shot 12-24 from the field, and never turned the ball over once, joining NBA legends LeBron James, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson as the only players to tally 29+ points, 9+ assists, and commit zero turnovers during a Conference or Finals game.

Payne missed a few games earlier this season after spraining his right ankle, but this injury appears entirely unrelated to that, with Payne rolling his left ankle instead vs the Clippers.

To put things simply though, the Suns need Payne like a Ford needs tires. So far during these playoffs, he owns Phoenix’s second highest usage percentage at 25.0 percent, slightly behind Booker. He too remains very instrumental in starting Phoenix’s fast breaks, something that clearly took a hit tonight with him out, as the Suns moved notably without pace and rhythm.

Although we know little about Payne’s status for Game 4, Williams offered at least something to for Suns fans to stay positive about, remaining “hopeful” that he can suit up.

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Getting the day off tomorrow, the expect “Cameron Payne prayer circles” to be in full effect on Twitter. The fans, the coaching staff, and even the Clippers all know how large a role he plays, making his health priority number one ahead this next contest.