The Phoenix Suns continue their six-game road trip with a trip to Cleveland to face the lowly Cavaliers, who have lost three in a row and nine of 10 since a 2-2 start.
The Cavs are without star point guard Kyrie Irving, who has missed the past four games with a broken finger. He is expected to miss a month, which is very bad news for a Cleveland team that relies on him so much to score and create for others.
Irving was averaging 22.9 points and 5.6 assists per game and seemed to be on his way to jumping another level on his path to NBA superstardom.
Jeremy Pargo has started in his place, and while he has done a decent job scoring the basketball, that’s still a monumental dropoff.
The Cavs will be eager to avenge their 107-105 loss on Nov. 9 in Phoenix in which Cleveland led 18-2 a couple minutes in and by 26 points early in the second quarter before eventually falling to the Suns. In a season full of double-digit comebacks for Phoenix, it’s hard to think anything will be able to top the run the Suns made to win that game.
Dion Waiters caught fire in that contest, drilling 9-of-13 shots for 23 points. The Suns had few answers for the Syracuse rookie as part of a season in which Waiters has been very hit or miss. He has scored at least 15 points eight times, including the last four games without Irving, but he’s also been held to single digits four times and has suffered through some brutal shooting performances to shoot 37.6 percent for the season.
Anderson Varejao, meanwhile, has been enjoying a career season by averaging 14.0 points and an NBA-best 14.1 rebounds per contest.
The Suns have been a horrid road team thus far with their only away win in six tries coming against a Charlotte team that trailed by 40 at halftime last night in Oklahoma City. But as road games go, they don’t get too much easier than playing a struggling Cleveland team without its franchise player.
This is the kind of game the Suns must win to prevent themselves from getting buried early in the year. They will have already played many of the dregs of the East by the time December rolls around, and at this point it would take a winning streak just to finish the month above .500.
I’m looking forward to seeing once again how Alvin Gentry utilizes his rotations. The new bench has turned in three straight fabulous performances, outscoring opponents by 43.6 points per 100 possessions over the course of 40 minutes the past three games, according to the NBA’s stats tool. In seven games, the current starters are getting outscored by 23.0 per 100.
We are still well in small sample size territory, but that reserve unit’s effectiveness could be a big reason why it took Gentry so long to bring Goran Dragic back into Sunday’s game and why he never brought Marcin Gortat back to finish it out.
I’m also curious to see how Michael Beasley bounces back from his fabulous eight-point final quarter that included a game-clinching missed layup that could have tied things up. Before that ill-fated final attempt, the Sixers just could not stop him. Will we see that guy once again or will it be back to the 5-for-17 Beasley we all know and love so much?
Whatever the combinations are, the Suns need to turn around their road woes, and there’s no better place to do that than in Cleveland against a reeling Cavs team missing Kyrie Irving.
The Suns’ win over the Blazers last Wednesday was apparently so thrilling that NBA TV has decided to televise the rematch in Portland on Dec. 22. The game will still be shown locally on Fox Sports Arizona as well.