Shorthanded Cavaliers eclipsed by Suns 117-111  
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - Sunday was a tail of two days in one. In the afternoon there was a celebration as four new members were inducted into the Cleveland Cavaliers Wall of Honor. Later in the evening the Cavs took on the visiting Brooklyn Nets and with the Cavs missing three starters (Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, Max Strus) and Dean Wade who is a big part of the rotation either the first or second guy off the bench there was not much celebrating going on as the Nets pounded the Cavs 120-101.

Monday night the Cavs (41-23, 22-12 home) welcomed the Phoenix Suns (37-27, 16-13 away) to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Injury wise things were no different on Monday night as the Cavs were still missing their three starters and Wade. Even though guys not normally in the rotation stepped up for the Cavs it wasn’t enough as the Suns took home the win 117-111.

The Cavs started off hot taking a 9-2 lead with 9:51 left after Garland was fouled by Bradley Beal and hit both free throws. The Suns closed to 12-9 with 8:22 left when Grayson Allen hit a three pointer. Phoenix cut the lead to 14-12 with Devin Booker scored on a fast break with 7:22 left in the first quarter. With 6:27 left on the clock the Cavs lead grew to 21-15 when Darius Garland drained a three from in front of the Cavs bench. Cleveland’s lead grew to 31-20 with 3:25 left in the first quarter when Garland hit his fourth three of the quarter. Phoenix coach Frank Vogel took an immediate timeout to calm his troops. The Suns scored twice immediately after the timeout and the Cavs lead was cut to 31-24. Then with 2:05 left in the first quarter Isaiah Mobley who just entered the game drained a three from in front of the Cavs bench giving the Cavs a 34-24 lead. When the quarter ended the Cavs led 41-32. Garland led everyone in the first quarter with 21 points. Kevin Durant led the Suns with nine first quarter points. The Cavs shot 67% (16 of 24) and the Suns shot 59% (13 of 22) from the field. The battle on the glass was close as the Cavs led 9-8.

The Cavs continued to build their lead as with 6:20 left in the second period it was 57-42 after an emphatic fast break dunk by Craig Porter, Jr. on a pass from Caris LeVert. The Cavs, with a lineup for most of the first half of Garland, LeVert, Niang, Isaiah Mobley and Damian Jones held their own, but with 3:44 left the Suns cut the lead to 63-52 on a layup by David Roddy. The Suns then cut the lead to 63-56 when Jusuf Nurkic dropped in a layup and was fouled by Allen, but Nurkic failed to hit the free throw with 2:38 remaining in the first half. The with :25.6 left on the clock the Cavs lead was down to five points at 66-61 when Beal drained a three. But in the last :08.5 second the Cavs got two free throws from Allen and two from Georges Niang to take a 70-63 lead into the locker room for the halftime break. Garland was leading all scorers at the break with 25 points including 6 of 7 from three-point range. Beal paced the Suns with 16 first half points. The Cavs cooled off in the second quarter shooting, but the Suns stay hot. The Cavs finished the first half shooting 56% (25 of 45) and the Suns shot 60% (27 of 45). The battle of the boards was nearly even with the Suns outrebounding the Cavs 20-19.

With 10:30 left in the third quarter the Suns cut the Cavs lead to 72-69 when Nurkic dropped a layup through the net. After the Suns cut the Cavs lead to one. Isaac Okoro was fouled at the other end. He hit one of two free throws to give the Cavs a 76-74 lead with 8:42 remaining in the third. Durant was then fouled at the other end and hit one of two trimming the Cleveland lead back to one point with 8:21 left. Phoenix then took the lead with 7:45 left on a jumper by Devin Booker. The lead was extended to 80-76 with 7:12 left when Allen hit a three. JB Bickerstaff immediately called a timeout to squelch the Phoenix momentum. The Suns lead continued to grow to nine points at 87-78 with 4:41 left on a three-point jumper by Durant. The Cavs responded by hitting two consecutive threes’ cutting the lead to three points at 87-84. After Durant hit a three, Okoro got into the act and hit a three again cutting the Suns lead to three. The Suns then responded with a three to extend the lead back to six at 93-87. The Cavs once again cut the Phoenix lead to 93-89 with a nice pass in the paint from Garland to Jones who slammed it home with 2:28 left in the third. When the period ended the Suns led 97-91. Durant led all scorers through three quarters with 32 points. Garland paced the Cavs with 30 points. The Suns out hustled the Cavs on the boards in the third 15-7 to have an overall advantage 35-26.

The Cavs did cut the Phoenix lead to 102-100 when they went on an 11-3 run which was capped off by a three by Sam Merrill who has been in an awful shooting slump the last four games. Then with 7:50 left on the fourth quarter clock Okoro was fouled by Royce O’Neale his fourth. Okoro hit both free throws to tie the game 104-104. The Suns started to pull away with 4:36 left when Booker hit a step back jumper giving Phoenix a 110-105 lead. The Cavs cut the lead to 113-109 with 3:19 left when LeVert dropped a put back layup in the hole. With 1:30 left in regulations Porter Jr was fouled by Durant, and he hit both free throws cutting the Suns lead to 113-111. After Okoro stepped out of bounds and turned the ball over with :25.8 left Jarrett Allen fouled Grayson Allen with :21.5 left. Grayson Allen hit both free throws to give the Suns a 115-111 lead. Once again with less than :20 left on the clock Garland forgot that he had teammates and put up a bad shot, the Suns got the rebound. Okoro fouled Booker, he hit both free throws and the Suns sealed the deal 117-111. Durant led all scorers with 37 points. Garland paced the Cavs in the loss with 30 points but did not score in the final quarter. Garland finished with the worst plus/minus of either team with -16. The Cavs were outrebounded once again for the fourth time in the last six games. The Suns outscored the Cavs 34-21 in the third quarter and 54-41 in the second half which was the difference in the game. Bickerstaff said after the game that they have to figure out how to score more than 41 points in a half.

The Cavs will now head out on the road for a three-game swing with the first stop in New Orleans against the Pelicans (39-25, 18-12 home) at the Smoothie King Center at 8 pm on Wednesday. The Pelicans lead the all-time series 26-20 and 17-5 in New Orleans. 
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​POSTED 03/11/2024 22:26 
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Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland.                              Photo by Tommy Shirer