Phoenix Suns 99, Cleveland Cavaliers 90 -- Comeback Part 2

It began as a mirror image of the game on Friday against the Washington Wizards.

The Phoenix Suns played with weight on their shoulders. If it wasn’t passing up shots, it was second-guessing them before letting attempts fly. If it wasn’t trying too hard to push the ball forward when the play wasn’t there, it was allowing the Cleveland Cavaliers to do whatever they wanted in a fast-paced affair.

By halftime, it was 61-43, Cavaliers. By the time 48 minutes had expired the Suns left a Cavs team with a 99-90, very Cavs-like loss.

The Suns had matched last season’s win total just after the halfway point of the season, and they suddenly had momentum to start off a four-game road trip.

Phoenix used a 25-6 third quarter advantage to turn around an inept defensive effort in the first half. Channing Frye sparked a burst with three triples early in the third, Gerald Green broke out of a funk and the defense held Cleveland to 2-of-22 shooting. And when the Suns nearly blew an 11-point lead and the Cavs had climbed within 90-87 with less than two minutes to go, a three-pointer by Frye became the dagger that the Suns needed to escape with a sigh of relief.

It was the second-best comeback of the season, just behind a 21-point comeback win at Denver on Dec. 20. In that game, Markieff Morris led the way.

Same story on Sunday in Cleveland.

Morris scored 27 points and added 15 rebounds, his defense against a driving Kyrie Irving in the paint motivating and his aggressive attack that earned him 12 free throws symbolic of his impact.

Kyrie Irving's shot chart

Kyrie Irving’s shot chart

Meanwhile, Irving struggled to finish in the paint, and even though Cleveland’s three big men hit double-digits on the rebounding front, the Suns won the total rebounding battle by seven boards.

The unsung hero might have been Tucker, who led the team in minutes played.

This is the way the Suns will have to grind out road wins. And it’s exactly what Tucker can exude upon his teammates. Tucker finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals. Green’s unselfishness shouldn’t be overlooked either, even though he hit just 4-of-14 shots and scored 12 points. The shooting guard also added five assists.

The Suns proved they could grind one out without running. They scored five fastbreak points, but with commitment on the boards on on the defensive end, it was doable despite a gloomy looking start.

To the preview questions posed by Jeff Sanders.

Can the Suns clean things up?

It was concerning that the Suns opened the game just as they had against the Washington Wizards. They pushed it too out of sorts, got the Cavs’ offense lubed up in doing so and then began frantically forcing things. Phoenix had 10 turnovers leading to 17 points for Cleveland, and had a difference in shooting percentages that went in the Cavs’ favor by 15 percent. The Suns fell behind 61-43 at the half.

The second-half was an about-face, as the Suns turned it over just two more times.

Does Anderson Varejao run wild?

Varejao was quiet throughout, and the duo of Miles Plumlee and Frye held him in check. He finished with two points on 1-for-9 shooting, and of course the biggest victory for Phoenix was in how the active Cleveland big man couldn’t get involved in earning second-chance points.

The Dragon vs Uncle Drew, who has the better night?

Dragic didn’t have his strongest of games and certainly was quiet in the second half. Defensively, he did his job on Irving, who finished with 24 points but went 8-for-23 from the floor.

Again, it was the team defense that did Irving in. Dragic applied the necessary ball pressure and chased him around screens, but it was the big men who kept him from scoring at the rim even though he, as usual, knifed his way through defenders.

Dragic ended the game with 15 points and seven assists.

  • sunsn7

    Markieff? MARKIEFF??

    Let that professional chip on your shoulder travel with you, home and away.

    Great comeback, nice job Coaching staff!

  • the real al

    To be quite honest, I turned the TV off before halftime as the first half was utterly ATROCIOUS to even watch. I turned it back on just enough to catch the start of the 4th, and to my surprise the Suns were up by a point…. Thought to myself WTF just happenned?????!!!!!!…how?????!!!!

    Yep the suns were up, coming back from 20-some points down.

    This team, this season, just never ceases to amaze…shaking my damn head***. Let go suns!

  • EBJM

    What a GREAT game to review that plus/minus stat that some seem to hold so much stock in:

    Obviously the Suns do NOT win without Markieff’s fantastic game yet he was a -3.

    Green led the Suns in that stat with a +16 despite shooting only 25% from three point and 33% from inside the arc. He did have five dimes but only one board.

    Once again, the longest player in the game outside of Alex Len only grabbed five boards and the two guys he was attempting to defend grabbed a combined 23 boards.

    SIX players grabbed more rebounds, three from each team. He also shot SEVEN three-pointers compared with only two from inside the arc. Markieff took 14 inside the arc and only two from three-point.

    MUST bench Frye and start Markieff!!!!!

    Go SUNS!!!!!

  • SJose

    Keep Frye starting, he ignited the run in the first place. Markieff plays poorly 3 out of 5 games. Go SUNS, let’s keep this up!

  • foreveris2long

    I sat through the entire game. At the half I thought it was a case of mistaken identity as someone had stolen the Suns uniforms and pretended to be ballers. However an obvious heightened halftime speech prompted the real team to appear. The 3rd quarter was beautiful.

    While Coach has done an exceptional job with the team, the way he has Markief to elevate his game is most impressive. I use to think the guy was soft but he is manning up more than I ever expected. Great second half Suns.

  • The Real Danforth

    If only the Suns had rebounder’s like the two Frye guarded, we could have a record like the Cavs!

  • You No Know Me

    Its been 10 years since Robert Sarver took over the reigns of the team. This team sucks and I dont see us becoming even remotely close to what Jerry Colangelo built. Just sayin!

    Robert Sarver took his kids to Seattle last weekend, home of America’s hungriest sports fans. From their seats inside the NFC Championship Game, one of them asked their father a wistful question:
    Why can’t Suns fans stand up and scream like this for an entire game?
    Sarver laughed, explaining that Suns fans aren’t fueled by three hours of tailgating.
    But maybe a commotion is on its way to US Airways Center.
    After the Suns’ emphatic victory over the Pacers on Wednesday, where they slapped 124 points on the NBA’s best defense, the season has taken another interesting turn:
    By all, accounts the Suns were expected to win fewer than 30 games in 2013-14. They temporarily have lost their best player, Eric Bledsoe, to a knee injury. They are still good enough to smoke one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
    For Sarver, this is where the road to redemption begins.
    “I don’t feel satisfied because we’re a good team, not a great team,” Sarver said. “In terms of our performance and record and the level we’re competing at right now, on an absolute basis, I feel OK. I don’t feel great because we’re not at a place that we want to be, a place that allows you to compete for a championship.
    “We’re a work in progress. What I feel really good about, and what I feel, is optimism. It’s optimism that we have some really good pieces, a good coaching staff and a number of assets that, if we make smart decisions, will lead us back to the elite level of play.”
    There are two very important things to know about the seasoned, mature Sarver, who led a group that purchased the team in 2004. One: He is responsible for the re-signing of Goran Dragic, overruling the previous regime that preferred Raymond Felton. He actually struck a deal in the arena parking garage, while his top executives were off interviewing Eric Gordon.
    “I don’t do that very often, though,” Sarver said. “I really don’t.”
    Sarver also made the call on General Manager Ryan McDonough, selecting him over Milwaukee Assistant GM Jeff Weltman, one of the candidates endorsed by team President Lon Babby.
    Clearly, there are many reasons for the Suns’ dramatic turnaround: Babby’s decision to fire Lance Blanks; the acquisition of Bledsoe; the trade for Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee; the all-in chemistry that originated when head coach Jeff Hornacek and forward P.J. Tucker did something unheard of — joining the team in Las Vegas for the NBA’s Summer League; and, of course, the All-Star effort put forth from Dragic on a nightly basis.
    But two key decisions from a once-beleaguered owner showed excellent basketball judgment, and have been pivotal in the Suns’ first-half showing.
    “You have a lot of decisions to make in this position,” Sarver said. “Sometimes your instincts are good, and sometimes they’re not so good. Nothing is black-and-white in this business, especially when it comes to players.”
    Sarver will have more big decisions to make before this ride is over, starting with the injured Bledsoe, who has no timetable for returning to the court.
    While both Hornacek and McDonough have said Bledsoe will definitely be back this season, the player speaks in different terms, remarking that a return is “possible.” This could be a non-issue, a simple matter of semantics, or it could ultimately lead to rough sledding for both parties in the coming months.
    Sarver said his duty is to provide the best health care possible for his players, and that his players have to feel comfortable before returning to the court. He also said he doesn’t need Bledsoe to return in order to match any contract offer that might be coming to the restricted free agent this off-season.
    “I think we had a pretty good idea of who Eric was when we traded for him,” Sarver said. “So I wouldn’t say we need to see more of him to match any offer. Obviously, we’d like to see more of him because our team plays better when he’s playing. And we’re competing (now), we’re making a playoff run this year. And I think if we can get him back, not only can we make a playoff run, we have a chance to be a team that can win in the playoffs, too.”
    By all appearances, Sarver will have that team within three years. Imagine the sense of accomplishment he’ll feel when the Suns once again field a championship-caliber team, one that didn’t come with the purchase price, one he built from rock bottom.
    That’s where the road to redemption ends.

  • You No Know Me

    Maybe they dont stand and cheer because you, Robert Sarver, in your ego-driven affirmations you destroyed this entire franchise and people just cant stand up and cheer for that!

  • CART jeff

    Frye is a skilled 7′ PF who has a quick release andgreat chemistry guy. He is not thick athlete or a fast twitch athlete. He is not built to dominate the boards. Teammates pick up the slack like Plumlee and Tucker and wait for Frye to go off offensively. He is a matchup nightmare and makes his teammates better. The key to the team success is Plumlee and Green getting better with Bledsoe returning. PF position is fine.

  • Hawki

    Frye is a skilled 7? PF who has a quick release andgreat chemistry guy. He is not thick athlete or a fast twitch athlete. He is not built to dominate the boards.

    - this is just an absolutely ridiculous oxymoronic, typical dumbfan statement
    ( that is to make excuses for the team and dismiss horrendous play)

  • BCrayZ

    CART Jeff is right.

    Frye took his treys because they were open. Inside game is fine but a trey counts for 50% more. He was the only player on the team able to make them this game.

    Good thing he did take them because that got the Suns back in the game. Last of his treys with just a minute left plus 2 foul shots after were clutch. Without him, we lose this game. Do Mavs fans clamor to trade Dirk? Just remember how well the Suns played last year without Frye. EBJM wants more of that. CART Jeff & I like wins. Even more wins in store by teaming Barbosa with Gogi & Frye. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • JZ

    Suns should trade for Jeff Green!!!

    Swap Okafor with Humphries. Trade PJ while his stock is high and while also sending 1 first round pick and maybe 2 second rounders for Green.

  • Everyone

    Deport BCray. He forgot to take his south of the border street meds again.

  • vtsunrise

    Is the glass half empty or half full?

    Well, actually, both, 100% of the time.

    It’s all in your mind, the other half is physical.

    Play on.

  • BCrayZ

    Luka is hiding behind a new name.

    This is getting so ridiculous, now calling himself “Everyone.”

    “Everyone” should be glad to see our Suns win last night’s game. Suns have the worst fans. He should know that a true fan will have our player’s back. Attack Frye, LB or any other of our Suns & I will come after you dude. Suns will play best when they capitalize on the chemistry between Gogi, Frye & our Brazilian Blur. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • Rengaw

    I have to offer up praise to Markieff once again. Where as Frye is one dimentional on offense with his long range bombing, Markieff is proving to really be a versatile player.

    He drives hard to the rim and knows how to draw fouls.
    He has a good midrange jumper that he can accurately get off over most anybody.
    He can shoot the three.
    He is getting better on the offensive boards.
    He doesn’t mind physical contact.
    He is tough minded and Jeff has him playing harder all the time. He is running the floor better and his defense and rebounding are improving as the season progresses.

    I will admit, he has games where he just can’t seem to get in the flow of the game and Jeff ends up sitting him a lot. And like all players, he will have games where he can not find his shot.

    Actually, the combo of the Morris twins and Frye seems to really click on offense. As Frye will force a big player to come out and guard him, it opens up the inside for Markieff to operate.

  • john

    @You No Know Me

    A few things

    1. What’s the point of your Sarver/Seattle story? Who cares?

    2. Eric Bledsoe isn’t the best player on the Suns. That’s arguable, but at this point in their careers, you’d have an uphill battle saying Bledsoe is better than Dragic.

    3. The lack of enthusiasm from Suns fans in Phoenix has nothing to do with Sarver. That’s a cop out for them; it’s just an attempt to shed the moniker that hovers over their heads – “Worst Fans in America.” Phoenix has abysmal fans. Always have, probably always will.

    4. Sarver didn’t destroy the Suns. They’re one of the more interesting teams in the NBA across markets (just because fans HERE don’t care about them doesn’t mean no one else does. They’re a great story). They’ve been to multiple WCF’s, had a barrage of all-stars, sold out a ton of games in a weak market that only comes out to see wins, and they’re in the process of building what looks to be a promising future.

    5. Why do you enjoy being a hater?

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  • HushPuppy

    That game was something else. I have never yelled and covered my eyes more at how awful we played this season in that first half. Then the third quarter comes around and I’m smiling from ear to ear. Couple that with a stressful fourth quarter and you’ve got yourself a ball game. Good way to start a roadtrip and Keef is looking more and more like an above average NBA player. He has been a pleasure to watch multiple times this season. It’s tough to hate on Frye because he did ignite that third quarter run, but watching him look helpless on defense is a struggle. He gets outboarded, out hustled, out played, then hits three 3s in a row and brings us back in to the game. I dont even know….I need my blood pressure meds.

  • http://none Go Phx

    Frye and Markieff are both essential to the Suns’ success and I’m glad we have both.

  • DZ

    Lol. Yep, the Suns were terrible last year when we didn’t have Frye playing on the team…

    … but we also didn’t have Bledsoe, Plumlee, Green, Smith, Len, Goodwin, Christmas, Kravtsov or Barbosa on the team last year either.

    Dragic, Tucker and the Morris twins are the only players left from last year’s team (I’m not including Frye because he did not play even though he was a part of the team).

    I like Frye but I doubt he would have made much of a difference if he had been able to play last season but I wouldn’t doubt that the Suns would have won a few more games last year if he had been able to play. Maybe just enough so that Gentry and Blanks would still be here.

    I shudder to think of what this team would be like this season if that had happened.

  • BCrayZ

    This is true DZ.

    Only defend Frye from our so-called fans who disrespect his game.

    Suns won in Philly. Feel bad for Dionte who never got to play. Lots of home town folks came out to see him in the NBA. When Philly rallied in Q3, the combo of Frye (hitting his only trey of the game), Gogi & a trey from Barbosa (a rare event these days), playing at the same time, turned the momentum back to the Suns. With more confidence in his shot, LB (normally a 40% shooter from deep) can be even more dangerous. Give this trio more time together. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • Luka


    Frye and Barbosa are not the saviors for this franchise, and won’t be around by next season. Your blind homerism trolling has gone a little too far.

    Any real Suns fan knows the real Frye. He’s the guy who shot 1-20 in the WCF four years ago. He’s the guy who has no low post game and can’t defend or rebound. I’m happy for his comeback from his heart ailment, and am happy when he plays well.

    But I expect a guy who’s almost 7 feet tall and starting to play big. Frye hasn’t filled the void left by Amare, he never will. If Frye was coming off the bench and we had that big guy upfront I’d be perfectly fine having him here. I never agreed with the Suns overpaying to keep him, and I’m not going to blindly cheer on a player who is a detriment to the team. If he plays well that’s awesome. But more often than not he is not a consistent player and should be relegated to the bench.

    We are waiting for McDonough to make the next big move. I’m happy the team is winning, but the real fans here deserve more than just a one and done in the first round.