The Suns ended a six-game losing streak by beating the Cavaliers, 122-113, in Phoenix.
Devin Booker wasn’t his normal self to start the game and it showed. When anyone besides Booker is taking shots on Phoenix you really become aware of how shallow this roster has become.
Instead, Booker was in more of a setup role early on, leading to an open corner 3 (the first one in what feels like months) for Mikal Bridges and a rainbow 3 from the top of the arc for Elie Okobo. The Suns took an early 10-6 lead.
Without Kevin Love, the Cavs have one of the only rosters in the NBA less talented and experienced than Phoenix. It showed right away on Monday, as Larry Nance Jr. picked up two quick fouls and Collin Sexton started 2-6 from the floor.
Booker racked up four assists in the first 10 minutes of play and the Suns took seven 3s early. It sort of felt like the Suns’ star was making a point, as if to say how about we win this one and I score 20 — happy now?
By the end of the period, Bridges had somehow picked up two and-1 3s, making both free throws to give him 11 points after a quarter. Suns led, 31-23.
The beginning of the quarter probably gave Suns fans an assortment of headaches. Not only did Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss take the court in wine, gold and black, but we also got Jimmer Fredette minutes for the first time in a week. If watching these minutes gave you whiplash, maybe don’t go to sleep for a while. Splash some cold water on your face.
It was Jackson who took advantage of the G League lineups out there for both teams. Suddenly, everyone in the arena blinked and Jackson nailed a contested 3 from the right wing, giving him 13 points.
On the other side, Sexton played out of control. He just got colder after his rough start, at one point losing the ball out of bounds on a Bridges strip then fouling Jamal Crawford on a 3. After eight field goal attempts, Sexton had as many fouls as made buckets.
Everyone on the Suns was feeling it. Bad defense will do that for you. At the half, Phoenix was shooting 60 percent from the field and Booker had seven assists. The craziest part is Booker was the only guy on the team shooting worse than 50 percent from the field. Phoenix led, 71-52, at the half.
The Suns did what it took to keep the lead but Richaun Holmes picked up his fifth foul with about 9:00 left in the period. That’s the one knock on his defense right now as well as his free agent value — can he stay on the floor?
Holmes was upset with himself, but the rest of the Suns were thrilled. It’s been awhile since we saw this team have fun. Booker was clearly messing around, gunning for assists. Each pass seemed to have a target: this one’s for Ben Golliver, this one’s for the random who said I was Lou Williams, this one’s for the 12 teams who passed on me in the draft. You’d be angry in his position too, right?
Angry and stressed. The Suns are wandering. Sexton’s poor start opened up to a fiery third quarter. The rookie made 6-11 from the field after starting 2-8, finishing in the lane repeatedly with Holmes out of the game.
The Cavs cut the lead to just seven at the end of the period, outscoring the Suns 32-17 after they went down 22.
Finally, a Channing Frye sighting. Cavs coach Larry Drew found his heart and gave Frye some minutes to open the final period. The Suns showed a video tribute to Frye during the second quarter featuring highlights from his high school and college days in the Valley, in addition to great moments from the 2010 and 2013 Suns teams.
The Frye moment was quickly swallowed up by the Jackson moment. Seriously, this may have been the best game of Jackson’s career. You grade all of this on a curve because it’s April and it’s the Cavs, but I’m serious. Jackson was fantastic.
He capped off a fantastic night by dunking over David Nwaba and blocking Brandon Knight on the other end early in the fourth, then lingered in the backcourt cheering into the heavens as Drew called a timeout.
The end of the game only mattered because Booker was trying to get his career high in assists. Sitting at 12 for awhile, he checked back in but could only get to 13 by the buzzer.