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Suns fall to Cavaliers, lose franchise-record 16th straight game

Cleveland Cavaliers' Brandon Knight, right, drives past Phoenix Suns' Josh Jackson in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Phoenix Suns had a real opportunity in front of them at the All-Star break.

With seven days away to recollect themselves after an 11-48 beginning to the season and having lost 22 of their last 24 games, they could look at this return as a “fresh start,” which is what Devin Booker called it after practice on Wednesday.

That’s especially considering the schedule breaking the way it did, with their first two games back against two of the Eastern Conference’s worst — the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks.

Instead of taking advantage of that opportunity, we were greeted with the same 2018-19 Suns we’ve seen most of the season in a 111-98 loss.

“You have to change something where we’re at the point we’re at,” Booker said, according to the Associated Press. “We have to hold people accountable. You can’t take things personally when a guy calls you out. We need to start not being scared to step on people’s toes when something is wrong.”

The Suns have now lost a franchise-record 16 games in a row.

It’s not particularly close when you compare the talent levels of the two teams. Cleveland started Colin Sexton, Brandon Knight, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love and Ante Zizic but routinely looked like the better team throughout the night.

The Suns made a perplexing change in the starting lineup, moving out Mikal Bridges for Kelly Oubre Jr. Oubre getting the nod makes sense, but not for Bridges, who has been a part of the team’s success when they’ve had it and had averaged over 35 minutes a night in his last nine games.

Once again, defense was the issue. Despite the Cavaliers having no one on their team who can consistently create a shot for themselves or another individual, they had 100 points by the 5:30 mark of the fourth quarter.

Cleveland had 34 assists and shot 49.4 percent from the field.

Oubre backed up the decision by the Suns with his play. He had a team-high 23 points to go along with four rebounds, one assist, two steals and two blocks.

Devin Booker’s demeanor on the court for the second straight game was troubling. His engagement levels didn’t match what he’s shown over his career until the fourth quarter, where he turned it on after the game was essentially over due to the Suns’ inability to get stops.

The Cavaliers gave Booker the usual defensive treatment of hard doubles off ball screens.

As most of his teammates were not, he was not there defensively.

To be fair, the stat line was there for Booker. He had 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting with seven assists, but also nine turnovers, tying a career high.

After Deandre Ayton had 11 points and four rebounds in a first half that included an encouraging six free-throw attempts, he finished with 13 points and nine rebounds and was unable to get back to the free throw line.

Tyler Johnson’s shooting struggles continue as a member of the Suns. He made plays and had eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks but shot 1-of-7 and had five points.

UP NEXT

The Suns are in Atlanta on Saturday taking on the Hawks. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. and you can hear the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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