August 30, 2014

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Suns 106, Cavaliers 98: Wow, Cavs don’t get blown out

CLEVELAND — There wasn’t a win — that might be too much to ask right now — but there were some positives.

The Cavaliers lost their 14th straight game and for the 24th time in their last 25 outings, falling 106-98 to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Cavs, who have one win since Nov. 27, are an NBA-worst 8-33 at the halfway point of the season, but after losing their previous three games by an average of 35 points, at least they made the Suns (19-21) sweat a bit.

More photos below.

“It’s something we can build on,” said starting point guard Ramon Sessions, who had 19 points, five rebounds, eight assists, three steals and five costly turnovers. “We’re professionals. We’ll keep working. That’s all you can do.”

The Cavs had just nine healthy players — Mo Williams (hip flexor), Christian Eyenga (ankle), Anderson Varejao (foot), Joey Graham (quad), Leon Powe (knee) and Anthony Parker (back) missed the game — but they at least attempted to defend, especially in the fourth quarter.

Down 17 in the third period and 90-77 after three, Cleveland held Phoenix without a field goal and to just one point over the first 5:13 of the fourth period.

“It’s like coming in second place,” coach Byron Scott said. “It really doesn’t matter. But we really did do some nice things in the second half.”

The Cavs got within 91-87 on an Antawn Jamison 3-pointer with 7:04 to go and within 93-90 on a Daniel Gibson three with 6:25 left, but too many possessions down the stretch ended in horrible shots or costly turnovers.

Still, the Cavs held the Suns to 16 points and 5-for-16 shooting in the final quarter to at least give themselves a chance down the stretch, something that hasn’t happened too often in the last month.

In that sense, progress was made.

“We don’t want to take a step backward,” Scott said. “Come Friday (at home against Milwaukee), if we can play defense the way we played in the second half for 48 minutes, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win.”

Jamison, who limped off the court late in the game after bumping his right knee with 3½ minutes to play, led the Cavs with 23 points. J.J. Hickson had 16 points and 15 rebounds in a solid effort but also committed four careless turnovers, while Gibson had 16 points after missing the previous five games with a sprained ankle.

The Suns, who led by 13 points in the first period, which they finished with 36 points, got 27 points and 12 rebounds from 37-year-old small forward Grant Hill and 15 points and 15 assists from 35-year-old point guard Steve Nash.

Power forward Channing Fry, who was 4-of-11 on 3-pointers, added 18 points, while reserve center Marcin Gortat had a career-high 16 points and a season-high 12 rebounds.

In many ways, the victory was similar to the Suns’ 108-100 win over the Cavs in Phoenix last week. The Suns jumped to a decent lead, the Cavs fought back, then Phoenix righted itself at the end.

“The last time we played them it was almost the same thing,” Scott said. “We’ve got to figure out a way, in the fourth quarter when it’s on the line, that we don’t get tensed up.”

Tip-ins

  • Cleveland’s last 24 defeats have come by an average of 16.5 points. The Cavs have lost each of their last 11 games by at least eight points.
  • Though several thousand seats were empty, including a number in areas of the upper bowl that aren’t sold for the season, the Cavs announced their 101st straight sellout at The Q (88 regular season, 13 postseason). The last time the Cavs didn’t announce a sellout at The Q was Dec. 9, 2008, against Toronto.
  • By going 5-for-5 at the line, Nash moved back in front of former Cav Mark Price for the NBA’s all-time lead in free throw percentage.
  • Phoenix starting shooting guard Vince Carter, who is about to turn 34 and whose skills are rapidly eroding, scored his only points on a 3-pointer with 2:35 to play, giving the Suns a fairly safe 100-92 lead.
  • The Suns made just 6-of-19 3-pointers, missing a number of wide-open looks. It was the first time in six games a Cleveland opponent did not make at least 10 threes.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.