Suns Strokes: LeBron James, Cavaliers hand Suns sixth straight loss
PHOENIX — The fans came to see LeBron James, meaning the Phoenix Suns felt like visitors in their own home. That’s nothing new. Neither is James leading his team to a victory over the Suns.
James recorded a triple-double and the Cleveland Cavaliers recorded a 129-107 win in front of a sold-out crowd at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Tuesday.
James had 28 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 13-of-15 shooting from the foul line to go along with 13 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals and two blocked shots. It was his 14th triple-double of the season, 69th of his career and second-ever against the Suns, who have now lost six straight to James and the Cavaliers (39-28).
Kyle Korver added 22 points.
The game was over early. Like real early.
The Suns (19-50) never led and trailed by double digits for much of the night, the first time just three minutes into the game. Their deficit grew to as large as 27.
For the Suns, the struggle began on the offensive end. They couldn’t make a shot initially and then it just snowballed the rest of the game to the tune of 38.8 percent from the field (38-of-98) and 18.8 percent from 3-point range (6-of-32).
Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren each scored 19, while Devin Booker added 17.
The Suns’ losing streak has now reached six straight games; 16 of 17 and 21 of 23 overall.
Following an 18-point first quarter, the Suns exploded for 34 in the second quarter. They had an 8-0 run — Elfrid Payton 3-point play, Jared Dudley 3 and Booker dunk — plus a 10-0 run, highlighted by a pair of Warren baskets; the latter of which pulled the Suns to within 12, 59-47 at the 1:41 mark. Warren led the Suns with 13 first-half points, shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 3-of-4 from the foul line.
In a game littered with missteps, Warren was one of the few bright spots for the Suns. His 19 points on 8-of-17 shooting plus 10 rebounds marked his sixth double-double of the season. He had six career double-doubles entering the season. Warren’s best quarter, like the Suns, was the second when he had seven points, hitting both of his field goal attempts and 3-of-4 from the foul line, and two rebounds.
It was not the start the Suns wanted. They missed 11 of their first 14 shot attempts as the Cavaliers opened up a 23-8 lead just seven minutes into the game following a 9-0 run. Much of Cleveland’s damage in a 38-point first quarter was done at the foul line, where they went 12-of-15 compared to the Suns’ 3-of-3 mark. James made five of his seven free throws and finished the period with seven points, five rebounds and three assists.
Getting his first start of the season, Korver made three first-half 3-pointers, each one assisted by James. Korver hit back-to-back from long distance in the final 90 seconds of the second quarter to lift the Cavaliers to a 68-52 lead at halftime. Korver had 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 5-of-5 shooting from the foul line in the first half, sharing game-high honors with James who shot 3-of-8 from the field and 10-of-12 from the foul line.
It may have elicited the loudest fan reaction of the night: James picked off a Payton pass and dribbled straight to the basket for a breakaway slam dunk putting the Cavaliers up 22, 82-60, at the 7:47 mark of the third quarter. The Suns immediately called timeout. The dunk highlighted a 9-2 run which ended with James knocking down a 20-foot turnaround jumper for an 89-62 lead with 5:57 left in the period.
STAT OF THE GAME
6-of-32: The Suns missed 26 3-point attempts, while the Cavaliers went 17-of-35 from beyond the arc.
HE SAID IT
“I think that’s the skill that is probably most elite of the NBA players that he has. His ability to, not just share it, but how he delivers it,” interim head coach Jay Triano said, referring to James’ passing ability. “He throws the ball so hard and it’s always on time and on target. We saw that years ago here when Steve Nash played. He delivered the ball and everybody shot a better percentage when they played with him. Everybody who plays with LeBron, shoots a much better percentage.”
Jared Dudley grabbed a season-high nine rebounds and scored five points in 20 minutes.
Marquese Chriss was called for a technical foul (No. 8) at the 1:36 mark of the first quarter.
Tyson Chandler was active but did not see any action, recording a DNP-Coach’s Decision.
Suns started their 28th different lineup with Payton, Booker, Jackson, Warren and Bender.
Cavaliers played without injured players Rodney Hood, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.
It’s the fourth and final meeting with Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz coming up on Thursday, March 15. Tip-off from Vivint Smart Home Arena is scheduled for 6 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
The Jazz have won two straight after the Suns won the first matchup this season, snapping a seven-game win streak by Utah which was their longest winning streak in series history.
Overall, the Suns have won just five of their last 15 visits to Salt Lake City.