LeVert, Neto, Osman come up big in Cavs 90-88 win over Suns   
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - After Monday night's historic Cleveland Cavaliers (24-14, 17-4 home) overtime win over the Chicago Bulls 145-134 in which Donovan Mitchell scored 71 points the Cavs will have a hard time topping that but gave it a try on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns (20-18, 6-13 away) at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Coming into Wednesday night the Cavs had lost five straight games against the Suns their last win against Phoenix came at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse nearly four years ago on February 21, 2019. The losing streak came to an end as the Cavs came back to extinguish the Suns 90-88 in front of another sellout crowd of 19,452.

Cleveland was once again without Darius Garland who was missing his third straight game. The Suns were shorthanded without their star Devin Booker. The Cavs were cold to start the contest missing their first nine shots. They fell behind early 5-0. The Cavs got in the board at the 8:24 when Monday’s hero Mitchell hit two free throws. Isaac Okoro finally ended the shooting drought with a layup. He was fouled on the play, hit free throw to cut the Suns lead to 8-4 with 5:28 left in the first quarter. The Cavs cut the lead to 10-7 after Cedi Osman hit one of two free throws with 4:38 left in the opening period. Mitchell cut into the lead further shaving it tow one point at 10-9 with 3:36 remaining after hitting two free throws. Cleveland took their first lead at the 2:29 mark when Kevin Love dropped in a layup to put the Cavs up 11-10. Love extended the lead further one possession later after being fouled with 2:06 left when he hit two free throws giving the Cavs a three-point lead 13-10. The Suns regained the lead with53 when Damion Lee hit a floater giving the Suns a 14-13 lead. The Cavs two possessions later regained the lead 15-14 when Raul Neto drove the lane and laid it in the basket with :13 left. The clock then ran out in the low scoring first quarter. Mitchell led all scorers with six points the Suns Deandre Ayton led the way for the Suns with four points. Neither team shot well from the field with the Suns outshooting the Cavs 35% to 25%. The Cavs did outrebound the Suns 12-10.

The Suns scored the first four points of the second quarter taking an 18-15 lead with 10:13 left when Torrey Craig hit a layup. Cleveland tied the game 18-18 when Caris LeVert drove the lane with 9:20 left in the second quarter. The Suns then scored the next six points to take a 24-18 lead on a pair of threes by Ish Wainright and Chris Paul with 8:37 left. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff immediately called a timeout. Phoenix extended their lead to eight at 30-22 with 5:27 left when Paul hit a fadeaway jumper. After the Suns took their biggest lead to that point of the game at 10 points the Cavs chipped away and cut it to six points with 3:32 left in the first half when Mitchell hit a step back three pointer shaving the Suns lead to 34-28. The Suns quickly got the lead back to 10 at 383-28 when Ayton slammed home a dunk with 2:42 left. With 2:28 left Evan Mobley was charged with a technical foul for an elbow to the face. After Bickerstaff challenged the call, it was overturned as Mobley’s elbow only hit air. The Cavs got the ball back. Things got sloppy by both team as neither club scored on two consecutive possessions until Mitchell drove to basket and scored cutting the Suns lead to 38-30 with 1:14 left in the first half. With :10.8 left in the first half LeVert drained a three from the corner to cut the lead to 40-33. Paul then responded for the Suns with just :01.0 left on the first half hitting his own three pointer, his second of the half to give Phoenix a 43-33 halftime edge. Paul led all scorers with 14 first half points. Mitchell led the Cavs with 11. Paul and Mitchell were the only two players in double figures in the first 20 minutes. The Suns outworked the Cavs on the board winning that battle 22-18. For Cleveland the problem continued to be shooting from the field where they only managed to shoot 29% (11 for 38) in the first 24 minutes while the Suns shot 43% (15 for 37). Turnovers were nearly even. The Cavs turned it over 10 times resulting in two Suns points. The Suns had nine miscues resulting is six Cavs points. The 33 points for the Cavs was their lowest first half total of the season. The previous low was 43 on December 4th at New York against the Knicks. It was also their lowest field goal percentage of the season eclipsing the previous low of 34% also on December 4th. As was the 16% from three point range which also eclipse’s the 18% at New York on December 4.

Holding the Suns to only one point in the first 2:51 of the second half and a thunderous slam with 9:09 left on the clock by Mobley cut the Phoenix lead to 44-41 and forced Suns head coach Monty Williams to take a timeout. The Suns responded outscoring the Cavs 12-2 over the next 2:14 to take a 54-43 lead. The Cavs cut the Suns lead to 58-52 when Jarrett Allen hit a hook shot, Raul Neto then stole the ball drove the lane and scored. The Phoenix lead shrank to just two points with :07.0 left in the third quarter when Neto hit a fallback jumper to pull the Cavs to within 61-59. But as he had done all game Paul hit a three pointer at the third quarter buzzer to give the Suns a 64-59 lead heading to the final 12 minutes. Neto scored the final seven points of the period for the Cavs. Paul led all scorers with 17 after three quarters. Mitchell led the Cavs with 14. Neto had 10 points. The Cavs did outrebound the Suns 18-16 in the third quarter.

The Cavs once again pulled to within two just :45 into the fourth when LeVert drained a three. He then hit a jumper in the paint with 10:25 left, got fouled and hit the free throw to cut the Suns lead to 68-67. Finally, with 9:52 left in the game LeVert tied the game 70-70 on a three-point jump shot. The game was not tied for long as Paul hit a jumper with 9:14 left giving the Suns a 72-70 lead. After the Suns extended the lead to 79-72 on a long range three pointer by Landry Shamet with 7:02 left on the game clock the Cavs took a much needed timeout in an attempt to stop the Suns building momentum. Led by Cedi Osman and Neto the Cavs clawed back to a one-point deficit at 83-82 with 3:52 left after Osman hit a long range three. With just 2:46 left in the game the Cavs tied the game 85-85mon a LeVert three. After two good defensive stands by the Cavs came all the way back taking an 88-85 lead with :40.0 left in the game when Mitchell hit a three from the top of the arc. Phoenix responded with a Shamet with :26.0 left tying the game at 88-88. The Cavs came down the floor set their play, Mitchell passed the ball to Mobley and the big man from USC drained a jumper giving the Cavs a 90-88 lead with :04.0 left on the game clock. The Cavs then did what they do best and played stifling defense not allowing the Suns to get off good shot, only a prayer which was not answered and sealed the Cavs 90-88 victory.

Paul led all scorers with 25 in a losing cause. The Suns had five players in double figures, Ayton (15), Shamet (14), Mikal Bridges (10) and Dario Saric (10). LeVert led the Cavs with 21, 12 came in the second half. LeVert was 5 of 7 from three-point range. Mitchell finished with a pedestrian 20 points after his historic night on Monday. Neto had 14 and Osman had 12 but the Osman and Neto came up huge at times in the late third and into the fourth when the team needed a spark. Neither team shot the ball well from the field in the game as the Suns shot 39.5% (32 for 81) and the Cavs shot and even 39% (30 of 77). The Suns hit 10 threes in the game, but the Cavs managed to hit 11 which turned out to be the difference. Phoenix did win the battle of the boards in the loss 49-46.

The Cavs and Suns will see each other again in just four days on Sunday night at 8 p.m. in Phoenix at the Footprint Center.

The Cavs will next be in action on Friday night at 9 p.m. in Denver, Colorado against the Denver Nuggets (24-13) at Ball Arena. 
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​POSTED 01/04/2023 22:00
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Cavaliers Guard Caris LeVert.                                           Photo by Tommy Shirer