I feel like I just watched two completely different games. The Phoenix Suns were completely outplayed in the first half by the Cavaliers, only to turn the tables in the second half and leave Cleveland with a 99-90 win.
To say this was a roller-coaster of a game would be quite an understatement. The Suns looked absolutely abysmal in the first half -- in fact, the game looked to be headed straight to becoming a contender for the "worst game of the season" category, as the Suns were outmuscled in the paint and outplayed in nearly every other facet of the game to find themselves down 20 points in the second quarter.
The Cavaliers, who have one of the worst offenses in the NBA this year, got out to a fast start in the first quarter as they dominated the Suns' paint defense. Kyrie Irving dished 6 quick assists in the first period (he averages just over 6 per game), the Cavs' big-man tandem of Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao worked Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee, and CJ Miles started the game on fire to give Cleveland a 29-22 lead heading into the second quarter.
The second quarter was far worse for the Suns, as they just could not find a way to stop the Cavs from scoring. Luol Deng had a great first half and helped build a 20 point lead for his team. Meanwhile, Markieff Morris was the only Sun to have a great first half, as he tallied 15 points and 8 rebounds by the halfway mark. The Suns went into the break trailing by 18 after one of the worst halves of their season.
Oh, how I wish I could have been a fly on the Suns' locker room wall at halftime. After a putrid first half, one can only imagine what Jeff Hornacek must have said to his team, but our Dave King has a hunch:
I guess Hornacek at halftime said to his Suns, down 18: %€|€|%\£|%)$&)@&!!!— Dave King (@DaveKing_BSotS) January 27, 2014
Whatever was said to the Suns at halftime, it absolutely worked. Phoenix came out with amazing effort and a noticeable fire to start the second half. What was most impressive about the third quarter was that the Suns didn't make their run with their offense, but their defense completely stifled the Cavs' offensive play and forced some difficult shots. Their offense was also much better, as they hit a flurry of threes (Frye had three in this stretch) to quickly cut into the Cavs' lead and somehow take a one point lead into the 4th quarter.
The Cavs missed more shots than I've ever seen a team miss in one quarter and managed to score just 6 points in the period. SIX POINTS IN ONE QUARTER. They made just TWO FIELD GOALS in the entire quarter and missed twenty. That's a FG% of 9%. Single Digits. I had never seen anything like it -- and even now, all that offensive ineptitude (caused in large part by a more engaged and extremely active Suns defense) doesn't even make sense. The 6 points allowed in the third quarter ties a Suns franchise record. Take a look at the Cavs' shot chart for the 3rd quarter of tonight's game:
The Suns carried this momentum into the 4th, and their lead ballooned all the way up to 11 points behind more stellar play from Markieff Morris. That's a 31 point swing in less than 20 minutes. The Cavs offense managed to wake up a bit later in the quarter, as they cut the deficit to three, but the Suns responded and put the game away late after Channing Frye hit a big three with just over a minute left to give the Suns a 6 point lead. Game over.
Players of the Game
- Markieff "I'm better than Tristan Thompson" Morris: Tonight's player of the game is undoubtedly none other than Kieff. He finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds and played about as well as I've ever seen him play. He showed his entire repertoire against Cleveland's big men, scoring on midrange jumpers, hitting a three pointer, banging inside for rebounds, and getting to the free throw lines 12 times (he made 10 of them). Markieff was an absolute beast in this game and the Suns needed every bit of it.
- Channing FRY3: Channing was huge in the Suns' second half run, as all four of his three pointers came after halftime. Without his long-range shooting, there's no way the Suns would have been able to put together this comeback.
- PJ "mini-Luol Deng" Tucker: Tucker didn't have a great night shooting the ball, but he finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. In fact, the Suns managed to outrebound the Cavaliers 50-43, which was a significant reason they came away with the victory. Tucker struggled guarding Deng in the first half, but seemed to do a better job in the second half.
*Goran Dragic had a ho-hum game, yet still ended the night with 15 points (on 6-14 shooting from the field), 5 rebounds and 7 assists. Those numbers are right in line with his averages from last season. Kyrie Irving had 24 points and 9 assists, but also shot 23 times to get there. The fact that this performance can be considered subpar for Goran is a testament to how well he is playing this year in what deserves to be an All-Star worthy campaign.
This game was a hell of a comeback by the Suns, just a couple weeks after they rallied from a 21 point deficit against the Nuggets in Denver. They'll absolutely have to improve their first half play on the road as they can't expect to keep making these comebacks every night, but oh, how sweet it was. This team is something else.