2023 Playoffs: West Conf. Semifinal | Nuggets vs. Suns

Suns' Chris Paul (groin) out for Game 3 vs. Nuggets

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul will miss Game 3 because of a left groin strain suffered in Game 2.

Suns coach Monty Williams speaks on how his team will adjust to Chris Paul being out of the lineup.

If the Phoenix Suns are to emerge victorious in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinals series against the Denver Nuggets, they’ll do so without their star point guard.

Chris Paul has been officially ruled out for Friday’s Game 3 in Phoenix (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) because of the left groin strain he suffered in Game 2 of the series, which the Suns trail 2-0. His absence means the team will likely turn to backup guard Cameron Payne to fill in for Paul for as long as he is out.

“We’ve been in these situations before where we’ve had guys go down and we’ve had a number of guys step up,” Suns coach Monty Williams said Thursday. “We’re hopeful that a few adjustments to the lineup — not just Cam Payne — but a couple of the guys that play and space the floor a little bit more can help us.”

Three-time All-Star Devin Booker said the team has spent the past few days going through potential scenarios. In a strange bit of scheduling, the Nuggets and Suns have three days off between Games 2 and 3.

“You can’t replace what Chris brings to the team,” Booker said Wednesday. “He’ll still be there, being a leader, being vocal, but the things he does on the court, we’re just going to have to find other ways to be effective.”

The good news for the Suns is they’ve been through a similar scenario in the playoffs and flourished.

During the team’s run to the Finals in 2021, Paul had a shoulder injury that limited his play for several games in the opening round. He also missed the first two games of the Western Conference Finals against the Clippers after being place in COVID-19 protocol.

Backup Payne was fantastic during Paul’s absence, scoring 29 points in a Game 2 victory over the Clippers that was arguably the best performance of his career.

The 6-foot-1 Payne was limited to 48 games during the regular season because of a variety of injuries, but he averaged 10.3 points per game when healthy. He missed most of the Suns’ first-round series against the LA Clippers because of a sore back but has played some the past three games.

Payne’s unorthodox, herky-jerky playing style has proven effective during his time with the Suns. He won’t be the only bench player for Phoenix who needs to step up on Friday. Landry Shamet, Terrence Ross, Damion Lee and T.J. Warren are others who could see a bigger role.

“Obviously we’re going to miss Chris and what he brings to the table,” star forward Kevin Durant said Thursday. “We’ve just got to go out there and play our games and play together. We try not to think too much about it.”

The Nuggets won the first two games of the series by double figures — 125-107 in Game 1 and 97-87 in Game 2.

“Whether it’s Chris Paul, Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet, our game plan remains the same,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Wednesday. “We know that they have two guys in Devin Booker and Kevin Durant that are great players. And they’ll have their home crowd in front of them. Down 2-0, we’re going to get their best effort and we have to exceed that.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.