The Phoenix Suns took advantage of a tired Cleveland Cavaliers team, and walked away with a 91-78 road win. Unlike their first meeting of the season where they got down by 26 points, the Suns got off to an early lead and led the entire first half. They made the extra pass to find an open shot, and played good enough defense to hold the Cavaliers to 35.7 percent shooting on the night. It’s apparent that Cleveland misses their leader Kyrie Irving, but it was also apparent that the Cavs were playing in their fourth game in five nights, as they faded badly late in the game. The Suns took advantage and outscored the Cavaliers 42-28 in the paint, and outscored Cleveland 22-10 in transition.
The first quarter saw the Suns offense going through Michael Beasley early, as he took four of the first six shots, and ended the quarter with seven points. Beasley would finish the game with 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting. The Suns led 7-0, but couldn’t extend their lead any more throughout the quarter, even though the Cavaliers missed their first six shots, and finished making just 5 of 20. The Suns outscored the Cavaliers 12-0 in the paint as the Cavs went 0 for 7 from close range. With the Cavaliers struggling to find their legs, many of their shots fell short. The Cavaliers were held to just 13 points, the lowest total by a Suns opponent this season, and the Suns led at the end of one period 19-13.
After a slow start by both teams, the Suns went on a 7-0 run, capped off by a Jared Dudley semi-dunk, to take a 29-18 lead. Dudley was 3 for 3 in the quarter, leading the suns with seven points. Jeremy Pargo would score five quick points to pull the Cavaliers within six, and Alonzo Gee would score seven of the Cavs final nine points of the quarter to draw within five. Gee would finish the game with 12 points. The Suns, who average 13.4 turnovers per game, uncharacteristically turned the ball over 10 times in the first half. They were also out-rebounded 26-16, including 12-1 on the offensive boards. Although the Cavaliers shot 29.2 percent in the quarter, they outscored the Suns in the second quarter 19-18, and trailed 37-32 at halftime.
Cleveland took a two point lead just over three minutes into the third quarter, as they went on a 11-4 run, capped off with a driving dunk by Anderson Varejao. The Cavaliers maintained a two point lead until three minutes left in the third quarter as Varejao went off for 14 points on 7 of 8 shooting. The Cavaliers were shooting 72.2 percent, and Varejao was left open for mid-range jumpers on pick-and-pops at the top of the key all quarter. Varejao would finish the game with a team high 20 points, and improve on his NBA leading average of 14.7 rebounds per game by grabbing 18 on the night.
The effort it took to keep the game close finally wore on the Cavaliers, and they didn’t score another basket after leading 59-57 with 3:28 to go in the period. The Suns took advantage and pushed the ball up the court scoring 14 straight points. They stuck to their game plan and ended up scoring 34 points in the third, outscoring Cleveland 10-2 in fast break points. Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said after the game, “We finally got our energy level up. We did a good job of moving the basketball and I thought we did a great job of finding the mismatches and trying to go inside and try to take advantage of that. We did an excellent job when they decided to double, to swing the basketball to the weak side.” When speaking of the Cavaliers Gentry said, “This is their fourth game in five nights. Obviously they were a little tired and we wanted to try to push the tempo some.”
The Cavaliers shooting went cold, and they didn’t score a basket for a little over 7 minutes between the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth period. During that time, the Suns extended their lead to 14. They went on to pull ahead by 21 when Goran Dragic hit back-to-back three pointers to help the Suns go on a 13-3 run, and put the game out of reach. Dragic ended the game with a team high 19 points, 7 assists, and two steals. After the game Dragic said, “I know what I have to do. I have to stay aggressive, especially on defense. I have to get involved everybody else, and then if everybody is touching the ball, it’s harder for opponent to guard us.”
This was the Suns fifth win in the last six meetings against the Cavaliers. With veteran players Luis Scola (14 pts), Jermaine O’Neal (9 pts, 6 reb), and Jared Dudley (11 pts) coming off the bench, it makes it difficult for other teams to keep up. The Suns bench has outscored their opponents bench 222 to 92 over the last five games.
Like Goran Dragic said, “It’s a good win for us.” The Suns needed a road win to help motivate them for the next four games, as they continue their most grueling six games in 10 days road trip. The Suns are 1-1 so far on the trip, and will be looking for their second sweep of the season when they face the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night.