Suns’ Chris Paul returns to start in Game 3 vs. Clippers

National Sports

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul congratulates teammates during a timeout in the second half of Game 4 of an NBA second-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Paul started for the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Clippers after missing the first two games of the Western Conference finals while in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

Paul was upgraded to available from probable on the league’s injury report and participated in the team’s shootaround Thursday. He scored a game-high 37 points in final game of the second-round series against the Denver Nuggets on June 13.

“To have him back on the bus and shootaround was pretty cool for everybody. You know, right after that everybody got right back to business,” coach Monty Williams said before the game. “We watched film and broke down some of the things we didn’t do well and got on the floor and had a good shootaround.

Williams said less than two hours before tip off that there wouldn’t be a minutes restriction on Paul.

The 36-year-old point guard averaged 25.5 points, 10.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds in the Denver series.

“He’s always been pretty straight with me about when he needs a time-out. We have a normal rotation for him, but I’ll be watching him closely,” Williams said. “He logged so many minutes in the Denver series, so I’m sure a few days off helped. I’m sure he didn’t want that many days off, but he’s always been a guy that’s, ever since I was around him in New Orleans when he had the knee issue there, like if he had to take a few days off, he’d get right back on the floor, and it was like he never left.”

Phoenix has been on a roll, winning nine straight postseason games, including the first two of the Clippers series. The Suns are two wins away from their first NBA finals appearance in 28 years.

Paul — who played for the Clippers from 2011-17 — was named to the All-NBA Second Team earlier this week. He averaged 16.4 points during the regular season and 15.7 points in the playoffs.

Devin Booker wore a mask after he and Patrick Beverley bumped heads in Tuesday’s game. Booker’s nose needed a few stitches and he had his right nostril plugged after the game.

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is out due to a right knee injury. Coach Tyronn Lue did not have an update on if Leonard could be available for Game 4 on Friday.

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