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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns head to ‘Believeland’ for a rematch with the Cavaliers

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Two teams headed in opposite directions meet for the final time this season.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns @ Cleveland Cavaliers

When: 4:30 pm (Phoenix time)

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM


Ten days ago LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers made their yearly visit to the the valley and handed the Suns a 129-107 pasting. Don’t expect a different result in ‘Believeland’.

The Suns will likely be shorthanded again and at the moment I’m not at all certain just how many players will be out. Tyson Chandler is likely out for the rest of the season. Still nothing concrete on whether Devin Booker and/or T.J. Warren will be available and Alan Williams will likely be spending some more time in Prescott Valley with the NAZ Suns before making his return to an NBA court.

It’s looking as though this will be another long night for the Suns and Suns fans.

The Cavaliers (42-29)

Probable Starting Lineup: George Hill, Jose Calderon, LeBron James, Jeff Green and Kevin Love

The Cavs are 6-4 in their last 10 games on a 3 game win streak including an impressive come from behind victory over the Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors Wednesday night.

LeBron James is having another great season. His 27.4 points per game not only leads the team but puts him at #3 in scoring in the NBA behind only James Harden (31.2) and Anthony Davis (28.2). He also not only leads the Cavs in assists (9.1 per game) but is 2nd in the NBA in that category behind Russell Westbrook (10.2). Kevin Love leads the team in rebounding though with 9.4 rpg but James isn’t far behind with 8.6 (which is the 14th best rebounding average in the NBA).

Their 42-29 record and being only 3rd in the Eastern Conference standings is misleading. The Cavaliers team that played most of that schedule isn’t the team they are today... not after the extreme makeover they did just prior to the All-Star break. This team is very good and has only been held back since then because they’ve had their own injury problems to deal with. Kevin Love - their 2nd leading scorer at 18.0 ppg - has returned but new acquisitions Larry Nance Jr and Rodney Hood have missed 4 of their last 5 games with Kyle Korver also missing 2 games due to a death in his family.

But as long as LeBron is on the court (and he has been) the Cavs are a dangerous team.

And with Philadelphia, Indiana and Washington all still nipping at the Cavs heals to move ahead in the conference standings, don’t expect LeBron to ‘rest’ tonight... even against the Suns.

Team Leaders

Points: LeBron James (27.4)

Rebounds: Kevin Love (9.4)

Assists: LeBron James (9.1)

The Suns (19-53)

Probable Starting Lineup: Elfrid Payton, Troy Daniels, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Alex Len.

Although Josh Jackson has been playing extremely well in the last two games (25.5 pts, 8.5 rebs, 3.0 assists & 1.5 steals) with Devin Booker sidelined, it hasn’t made a difference in the outcomes. Even if Booker and T.J. Warren return tonight, it would take a supreme effort on their part - as well as the rest of the team - to turn this into a competitive game.

Perhaps the most maddening thing about this Suns team is that we’ve seen that “supreme effort” come in spurts in many games during the season but never over a sustained period of time. We’ve all seen times where they seemed to put it all together for a while and make a good run but then seen the momentum swing back to the other team and all the good from those runs gets wiped away.

But with many of the Suns’ key players possibly out tonight, it’s doubtful that even that sort of sustained effort will be enough to do more than keep this game from turning into another really embarrassing loss.

Team Leaders

Points: Devin Booker (24.9)

Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (9.1)

Assists: Elfrid Payton (6.6)

Summary

The Cavaliers are just too good in every aspect of the game for the Suns to have any chance at a win. I see no reason to try to soft-pedal it.