Cleveland led only 80-79 after three quarters, but then started the 4th on a 15-2 run that soon turned into 24-6 and the game was over.
The turning point was Cleveland starting the 4th with three starters, while the Suns went, effectively, full bench. And considering the injuries, DEEP bench at that. Duane Washington Jr. had scored 22 points in the first three quarters, including a quick 8 to put the Suns up briefly, 77-76, but then went dry in the 4th along with everyone else.
By the time Mikal Bridges came back in, the deficit was 10. When Deandre Ayton re-entered a minute later, the Suns were down 16 points and it was totally out of reach. Should Ayton and Bridges have played the whole second half? Maybe, but then is early January really the time run your guys down even more?
Anyway, done is done.
Cavaliers win, 112-98.
A good Suns effort spoiled by a really good Cavaliers team, who are now 26-15 on the season and full healthy.
The Suns are now 20-21, their first time with a losing record this late in the season in three years.
- Deandre Ayton had 14 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 block. When he left in the third quarter, the Suns were leading 77-76. The bad news is that he rolled his ankle again, and asked out of the game in the fourth.
- Mikal Bridges had 15 points on 7-10 shooting, a nice rebound from a bad shooting stretch.
- Jock Landale had 14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and steal and a block.
Let’s see how the game went...
That’s three guys — Craig, Saric, Shamet — who will probably play 80+ minutes tonight but, when the Suns are healthy, would only play about 20 total.
For the Cavs, no regular rotation player is out tonight, unless you count Dean Wade who averages 6 points per game in 17 appearances.
Suns had a very good first few possessions, with Deandre Ayton leading the way. He had a tough catch and physical drive into the paint for the score, then another tough catch and dish off to Torrey Craig at the rim when he got double teamed.
From outside, the Suns made their first two threes (Dario Saric and Landry Shamet) — a really good sign for shooting on this night.
Overall, they made 7 of their first 8 shots, all of them in the paint or from three, to give the Suns a 16-10 lead and force Cleveland to get their thoughts together in a timeout.
I’m thinking these teams are both going to exceed that 90-88 total in Cleveland the other day.
And I was right. The Cavs themselves made 11 of their own first 12 shots, plus 3 of 5 free throws, and used a 12-0 run to take a 22-16 lead a couple minutes later, as the Suns missed their next seven shots.
Overall, Cleveland made 13 of their first 15 shots and took a 34-23 lead that made everyone just wonder what is going on. Only 16 of those was in the paint — nearly everything they threw up from distance went in the basket, including Issac Okoro making both threes he launched despite making just 26% of them on the season.
The Cavaliers lead was 36-25 after one quarter — so common during this losing string, needing to spend the rest of the team climbing up a steep hill. Cavs are shooting 74% from the field to the Suns’ 42.9%. After that 7/8 start, the Suns shot just 2/13 the rest of the quarter.
Things did not get better in the second quarter, at least to start. The Suns got one shot up on their first three possessions of the quarter, and didn’t even hit the rim on that one.
I’m uncertain how, but the Suns were down only 8 points with half the quarter to go (46-38 Cavs) and the Suns starters beginning to trickle back in... until I remember those starters include three guys who wouldn’t even make the top 8 on a healthy team... oof
Duane Washington Jr. stayed in to run the point, and with better talent around him (DA and Mikal) he was able to drive to the rim aggressively against a lesser defender (Cedi Osman).
DA began having more trouble with the Cavs defense — Evan Mobley is a potential All-Defense seven footer at only 20 years old. Ayton doesn’t like to bully his way to the rim, and that’s really the only way to get both Mobley and Allen off their balance.
Washington is HOT and COLD, isn’t he? Sometimes he looks absolutely terrible and other times he looks incredible. Thanks to Wash, the Suns were down only 57-54 as he scored 8 points in the last 2:07 of the half.
Halftime leaders for the Suns:
- Washington: 14 points and 1 assist
- Bridges: 11 points and one each of rebound/assist/steal
- Ayton: 6 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists
- Shamet: 9 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal
Overall, the Suns have 11 assists on 19 shots, and are making 46.3% of shots but are staying in the game thanks to 66% of threes (8 of 12).
The Cavs are shooting 60% from the field but still just have that 3-point lead because they’re missing most of their threes (5-15) and even missed more than half their free throws (4-9). All of the eight Cavs have scored.
Not sure how the Suns are going to pull this one out, but a mere three-point deficit is nice to see, amiright.
And yet, the Suns came out and tied it up just three minutes into the half on a pair of Ayton shots, 61-61, putting the Cavaliers on their heels.
The Suns had a chance at a lead a couple of times, but could not convert and Isaac Okoro’s SEASON-HIGH third three pointer put the Cavs back in the lead. All three have been from the weak side corner with no defender close enough to contest.
They went through the inevitable lull a couple minutes later, with traveling calls against guys just simply trying too hard (Dario, Ish) and turnovers on trytoohard passes.
Once again, Duane Washington Jr. taketh after giving away and scored EIGHT straight points to put the Suns up 77-76 after they’d appeared to clear some room with a 76-69 lead on a Donovan Mitchell three. Timeout Cleveland, with 1:46 to go.
DWash now has 22 points on 8-14 shooting. He’s got a real future in this league, folks, but you’ve got to be patient because he still makes a lot of mistakes and is the kind of guy who gives as much as he takes. But he’s only 22 and still very much learning. I expect he’s better than he was as a rookie in Indiana, and better than at Ohio State (from which he didn’t get drafted).
Cavs lead after three, 80-79. Suns are chipping away at that early double-digit deficit.
The Cavs began the 4th with a starter-heavy lineup to try to get some separation against the Suns deep bench guys and it worked. The lineup of Shamet-Wash-Landale-Ish-Craig just struggled to make something happen, and soon found themselves down 91-81. There was a real talent difference in these lineups.
That 10-point lead quickly became 16, then 21, as the Suns spirits dissipated under the weight of playing so many deep bench guys for so long.