Cleveland Cavaliers 101, Phoenix Suns 90 — Irving, Jamison too much


PHOENIX — Kyrie Irving scored a career-high 26, Antawn Jamison added 23, and the Phoenix Suns did nothing but trade baskets in the second half as they fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers 101-90 on Thursday night in US Airways Center.

But Irving blowing by the Suns on the perimeter wasn’t the problem itself. It was his penetration that forced Phoenix’s big men to rotate.

The result? Either open three-pointers (the Cavs shot 10-for-19 on the night) or poor rotations that allowed Cleveland’s big men to grab 15 offensive rebounds.

“They shot the ball real well. Obviously they shot well from three,” Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry said. “But to me, I think the game was on the boards. We did a poor job on the boards.

“I told the guys, ‘Here’s a team that shot 43 percent against us and found a way to win the game,’” Gentry added. “That shouldn’t be the case.”

Steve Nash’s 16 points — he became the 15th active player to score more than 16,000 career points — and 15 assists weren’t enough, and neither was a 12-point lift from Michael Redd in his Phoenix debut.

Redd was the first player off the Suns’ bench, coming in with 9:43 left in the first quarter for forward Grant Hill, who only played seven minutes due to a quadriceps tendon injury in his right knee. Hill is probable for tomorrow’s game against New Jersey and said he came into the game with soreness.

Redd, standing alone two times in a row, hit his first two shots on his first two possessions as a member of the Suns.

Though Gentry said he wouldn’t run Redd into the ground, he played seven minutes in his first stint, scoring eight points in that time. He ended up playing 19 minutes and said he felt good considering the rust.

“My wind felt pretty good, surprisingly,” Redd said. “Just got to find my game legs and game rhythm and figure out the system.”

Rookie Markieff Morris, who added 13 points and eight boards, hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 30-30 to end the first quarter, when the Suns (4-6) shot 65 percent from the field yet failed to get to the foul line. The rookie then blocked a shot to ignite a fast break two minutes into the second quarter — that resulted in guard Shannon Brown getting to the line, the first such trip for Phoenix more than 14 minutes into the game.

Phoenix finished the game shooting 45.3 percent to the Cavs’ 43.8 percent, but the Suns also gave up 15 offensive boards, allowing Cleveland 14 more attempts.

“We definitely got to rebound the ball better,” said Suns’ center Marcin Gortat, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds. “I’m going to take the blame for that. That’s my responsibility.”

But with the dribble penetration of Irving, the help defense from Gortat was part of the reason Cleveland’s big men hit the offensive glass. Of the failed rotations behind himself and the Suns’ other big men during help situations, Gortat said that the Suns “were all messed up today from the first whistle.”

“We just have to watch the tape … figure out what we got to do,” he added.

At the end of the first quarter and early in the second, it was the Suns’ bench that built a lead. Nash exited with the Suns down 28-25, but they went on a 15-6 run before Irving returned to the game.

That’s when he caught fire, and that’s when the game changed.

Part of an 18-2 run, the rookie point guard went on a 12-0 run all by himself to give Cleveland a 46-40 lead four minutes before halftime. They went into the locker room with a 56-48 advantage.

And without many scoring options for the Cavaliers, Phoenix failed to stop the only two players capable of putting up points. After a Jamison three-pointer with 4:43 to play in the third quarter, Irving and Jamison both had more than 20 points.

Phoenix traded buckets in the third, and the deficit remained at eight points, 79-71, going into the fourth.

There, it didn’t get any better for Phoenix, and they only put in seven points during the first 7:21 of the final period. Nash cut the lead to six points with a driving layup and 1:12 remaining, but the Suns never got over the hump.

“This one will sting for a little bit,” said guard Jared Dudley, “but obviously short time, have to get ready for New Jersey tomorrow night.”

A game of chess

Both teams got hot to start the game, shooting 7-for-12 combined from three-point range.

Gentry decided to start running out on Cleveland’s three-point shooters, but that’s when Irving took over.

“There’s a reason he was picked No. 1, … he’s a real talented player,” Gentry said. “We tried to force him to shoot long jumpers. We went under the screen — he hit those, too.”

Still, Gentry was most upset about his team’s rebounding.

“You have to come down with the ball at the end of the possession,” he said.

Quotable

Alvin Gentry on the Cavs’ dribble penetration: “They broke us down and had dribble penetration and we end up in rotation. They play like we played in the past, like we’re trying to play right now. They spot up and they dribble penetrate and they help, they kick it to a guy who makes a three-point shot. You don’t help, you know … Kyrie Irving is talented enough he’s able to get to the basket.”

And 1

  • The Suns are a Jekyll and Hyde team so far this season. In wins, Phoenix averages 101.5 points per game while in losses the Suns score only 87.7 points.
  • Phoenix allowed Cavs forward Anderson Varejao to grab a season-high 17 rebounds.
  • The Suns turned the ball over 16 times that resulted in 19 points for Cleveland. While the defense of the Suns has been effective, they often times struggle in turning the opponents over. The fairly-youthful Cavs gave it up 12 times against the Suns.

  • sun-arc

    ugh. Missed the game, but not too sorry about it after reading all this. I got to hear a little bit of the 3rd Q in the car ride home. I’m sure Grant’s injury hurt them defensively a bit- but it sounded like they weren’t playing any defense during the stretch I listened to. Just a lot of open looks for the Cavs, and not a lot of rebounds for the suns.

    Mike/Mike/Kevin: do you think its the same issues as last year? ’cause its starting to have the same patterns. What is your feel/take on what is going on?

    I’m not panicking yet, but it just seems like they have no mojo, no desperation, and aren’t having fun at all.

  • shazam

    it says LEAVE A COMMENT…i just dont have one

  • Scott

    Actually, the Suns were often smiling during the game. But they played like they were tired, and for the umpteenth time they had absolutely nothing going on inside … no boxing out, no drives, no power game, no free throws.

    Would this really look worse with Gortat and Lopez playing together?

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Has anyone seen Robin Lopez?

  • Chris

    There needs to be some changes in the starting lineup. Brown for Dudley and Morris for Hill. Also less overall minutes for Lopez and more for Warrick. The Jury is out on Redd, looks like he needs to get some windsprints in.

  • Tony

    Well Suns fans, once again I feel obliged to say we need only look no further than Robert Sarver for the cause of the Suns predicament. Right now, the team has two legitimate starters in Nash and Gortat, period! Let’s quickly dispell the notion that Michael Redd is coming to the rescue. He can make an open shot fine, but that’s about it. I think he’s even slower than Dudley at this point and that’s awfully slow. With such a pathetic starting lineup, it’s no surprise the Suns struggled against the Cavs.

    As both Gentry and Nash said, this team has no margin for error and even though this is a shortened season, it’s tough to be focused for every game. The Suns probably thought they would walk all over the Cavs, which is why they didn’t play with any effort until the 4th quarter. But by then it was too late.

    Can the Suns get Brooks back? Can’t Sarver bail him out by paying Brooks Chinese team $500k? Price is by far the worse backup Nash has ever had, with the possible exception of Marcus Banks. To not even score 100 points against the Cavs at home nonetheless is absurd.

    On a positive note, it was good to see the arena so empty tonight. Hopefully it continues as such so that Sarver is soon forced to sell the team because of the lack of revenue generated.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    @sun-arc

    I actually feel like this year is a little bit different. I really think the defense is much better this year, but in the end it all comes down to personnel. That’s why you see they went two quarters without scoring 20+ points.

  • sun also rises

    Tony, I just want to know: do you realize what a bipolar idiot you sound like half the time?

    -When the Suns win, Mr. Logical strikes with his optimistic calls on the game and acts like everything is fine

    -When the Suns lose, Mr. Sarver Stalker Psycho rolls out by repeating the same stupid trash we’ve had to suffer through for almost a year

    Nobody “forgot” that Redd was coming to the rescue, because nobody has ever said that that was going to happen. Everybody who responded to it a couple weeks ago called it for what it was, a value signing.

    You’re the only drooling moron who believes half the stuff you waste board space with. I was really hoping that the threat of getting mod-spanked would beat some sense into your pointy little head, but here we go again.

    PS- don’t shout out to the “Suns fans,” because we’re here and we don’t recognize you as being anything close to one. Get back on your meds or don’t post.

  • sun also rises

    For anybody who actually watches the games (ex. not Tony, aka Mr. Box Score recap), this wasn’t anything surprising. The team didn’t execute when it needed to and it had no answers in those key moments. The same story that we’ve seen since last season, when tons of games like this got away for the same reasons.

    Redd did look good and will be a great contributor, as we all expected. He looked excited to be out there and still has one of the smoothest strokes on ice. Mo-keef had another great showing, and was surprisingly looking like the one guy who was in the hunt during a time when the rest of the second unit looked totally lost.

    I was also jumping between this one and the Knicks game tonight, since we were talking about Amare in a thread from a couple days ago. I was going to say that the falling off of his numbers was probably just us Suns fans looking for cracks in his game, but I take that comment back. He looked like a shadow of his former self and when Melo went down with a injury to his ankle, he vanished even more. It’s sad to see.

  • Scott

    @sun also rises -

    Maybe Chandler spends his time in the locker room polishing and admiring his championship ring, and that’s got Amare feeling down in the dumps.

    (As you may recall, in Amare’s early years he enjoyed tormenting Chandler, who was part of a terrible Bulls team.)

  • Tony

    Mr. Sarver, aka Sun Also Rises douche,

    I am simply pointing out facts, so you can go and crawl back up Sarver’s ass, cause frankly, your arguments are irrelevant and baseless. You’re too stupid to realize that the major problem with the Knicks is Anthony not Amare and that prior to the Anthony trade, Amare was a beast with Felton. The team gave up four of its starters for one ball-hog and still has no pg. So of course his offensive-efficiency has declined.

    The very fact that Gentry is considering starting Redd tomorrow night against the Nets should be an indication into how desperate Gentry and the front office are by hoping that a guy who has barely played the last three seasons is a legitimate starter!

    Now I realize that someone as ignorant as you Sun Rises, probably has a very limited understanding of basketball but let me attempt to educate you;

    you said “this wasn’t anything surprising. That the team didn’t execute when it needed to.” Now someone with even a minimal level of intelligence would recognize that the game was not lost in the 4th quarter, the game was lost after the opening tip off because the Suns played with very little effort and allowed the Cavs to get into a nice rhythm and feel confident that they could beat the Suns. Secondly, the game was lost because of the Suns inability to get defensive rebounds, allowing the Cavs 15 extra shot attempts. Finally, while Suns teams in the past could rely on their superior talent level to beat inferior teams even when they “coasted” through a game, this current team has such little talent, with only Nash and Gortat as legitimate starters on the team, that this team cannot afford to play without maximum effort. Now, why is it Sun Rises, that this Suns team has such little talent? Who do you think in your little pea-brain is responsible for that result? Hmmmmmm…………….I wonder….

    Lastly, the Suns lost to the Cavs, a team that was not rested and is considered one of the worst teams in the league. This was not a loss to even a good team. This was a humiliating loss for the Suns.

    Anyway, you’re just too stupid to argue with so it’s pointless debating you.

  • Scott

    @Lloyd and Chris -

    FWIW, the +/- leaders were Warrick (+6), Lopez (+4), and Brown (+4).

  • Bin

    Still, Gentry was most upset about his team’s rebounding.

    “You have to come down with the ball at the end of the possession,” he said.

    Rebounding issues have always plagued the Suns. Maybe a whole new set of head and assistant coaches could address this issue better than the current staff.

  • The Dane

    This is truly sad. No team with Nash in his prime – damn it, he still plays at such a high level – should have to miss the playoffs in the weakest western conference in years.

    I think this roster has some good material for a bench unit, now they just need three more starter-caliber players.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    There’s no denying that with bad beat … I was hoping we could go to Cleveland and New Jersey 4-1 in the last 5 … that was my optimistic prediction on these last 4 games + NJ … my realistic prediction, instead, he said, and won 3 lost 2 (I thought that with Portland )…! Too bad, we butatto on the good things done with Portland (going strong) to lose to Cleveland … mmmmmhhhhh …. bad!
    After New Jersey will be pain if you do not win a few games away …. but I see it as a difficult thing!
    The only positive than Nash and Gortat Morris! It’s going really great!

  • Nathan

    I think they need to start playing Gortat at the 4 a little with Robin at center. This would help our rebounding problems, and it would give Frye more time at Center, where he plays better consistently. It would also give more minutes with Markieff on the floor with Frye, which would open up the offense a lot. Phx can conceivably have five three-point marksmen on the floor at times without sacrificing much at the defensive end, where we’re already pretty decent.

  • Nathan

    Also, if we’re going to start “running”, there needs to be a shift in the starting lineup. There’s this weird superstition that’s been in PHX for a while that says that Grant Hill can’t be effective off the bench, but I can’t see how this team wouldn’t improve on the offensive end with Dudley sliding to the SF spot and bring Shannon Brown in at the 2. Dudley lacks the athleticism to play SG full time and plays better at SF where he can stretch the defense, and Shannon flat out runs and can drop bombs from behind the arc. If we’re spotting Grant Hill’s minutes anyway to something around 25(he’s only playing 27 as it is), why not make him our sixth man?

  • steve

    Yeah, I just don’t pay any attention to Tony any more other than to say that his Sarver bashing borders on obsession. We all know he’s the type of internet dweeb who would melt if he ever got the chance to berate Sarver in person.

    Btw, I got up close to Sarver and watched him interact with the players before the game for the first time about a week ago, and I didn’t sense anything “cold” between him and the guys. I know it’s just one observation from five minutes of interaction (plus, he’s the one paying their checks, so you might very well say that they HAVE to suck up to him). I just mention this because a big knock against Sarver is that players hate him… I honestly don’t see that. If for nothing else, I’m sure everyone on the team besides Nash and Gortat LOVE Sarver because he’s paying them more than they deserve.

    Anyway, I didn’t get to watch the game at all last night, and I’m glad about that after seeing the results. The Cavs are in the same boat as the Suns (a middling team that needs to pull together as a unit in order to make the Playoffs). It seems like the Cavs are taking steps in the right direction while the Suns are floundering. If this keeps up for another week or two heading into our brutal stretch, I have a feeling we’re going to offload a bunch of our average players to contenders who feel they can contribute. Warrick, Frye, Dudley, Brown… those guys can contribute if they’re put in the right situation, and I think we need to get rid of as much of this team as possible before they all become worthless without Nash.

  • Nathan

    Regardless of Sarver’s reputation, PHX is still an upper-tier destination for free agents because of the climate, market, and most of all the player-friendly coach and system and the training staff.

    Shannon Brown could have got a one-year deal from almost anyone. Young, athletic, defends and hits the three, and comes cheap as hell. Boston, LAC, and Portland(now that they’re running) would love to have this guy, but he’s playing here because the system and culture allows him to show off his skills in an offense that gives him the freedom to do it.

    Michael Redd could have signed with literally any championship contender for the minimum, but he chose to come to play for a fringe playoff contender. Chalk that one up to the much-talked-about training staff.

  • Evnerl

    If we dont go 4-1 in the next 5 games we should trade Nash to the Heat, the Lakers, or the Mavs right a way, as much as i love the guy and would hate to see him play for those teams he deserves to win a championship, or at least make an attempt at one.

  • shazam

    cant we all just get along?