Game 39: Cavs at Suns
U.S. Airways Center
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
1. Yes, the Cavs fell below .500 on the season at 19-20. And, yes, they dropped to 0-3 on the West Coast trip. Unless they win their next game - at the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday - they might go 0-5 on this trip. That wouldn't be a good thing.
2. But there was some encouragement after this game. They fought, scrapped and hustled. J.R. Smith lit a fire under the Cavs by making five 3-pointers in the third quarter. He was 8 of 14 from behind the arc in the game en route to his season-high 29 points. In three games with the Cavs, he's scored 27, four and 29. Notice a pattern here?
3. Cavs forward LeBron James played for the first time Dec. 28 game against Detroit. He'd missed the previous eight games with a strained lower back and left knee. It's obvious that he's needed in the lineup. The team had completely fallen apart without him, as their 1-7 mark indicated. On the season, the Cavs were 1-8 without him. However, he made a big difference tonight with 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He reverse dunk in the first half was a thing of beauty.
4. Many wondered how much energy he was going to have after attending Ohio State's national championship victory over Oregon in Arlington, Texas, on Monday. But he came out with intensity and was outstanding. He played almost 37 minutes. He'll be sore on Wednesday morning, as he took about five good shots to the face or the head in the game. he was knocked down two or three times, as well. The Suns sicked P.J. Tucker on James and he played him very aggressively.
5. The Cavs might have won if they had gotten a normal game out of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. He made just 4 of 14 shots en route to nine points and six assists. He turned the ball over eight times. In all, the Cavs had 19 turnovers, which led to 27 points for the Suns.
6. Many in the media will make a big deal with the fact that Cavs power forward Kevin Love didn't play in the fourth quarter. He ended with nine points and nine rebounds. Coach David Blatt had better find a way to better utilize Love, which can walk at the end of the season in free agency. He told the Northeast Ohio Media Group that he didn't plan to opt out this summer. We'll have to see what happens.
7. The Cavs unveiled their starting frontcourt of James, Love and 7-1 center Timofey Mozgov. I have to say it was less than impressive. Mozgov finished with two points and six rebounds. He didn't make a field goal and seemed to be in foul trouble all night.
8. The Suns are starting a franchise-long eight-game homestand. They snapped a two-game losing streak (to NBA powers Memphis and San Antonio). However, in their last 15 games, they are averaging 111 points. They have some serious firepower.
9. Suns center Alex Len is a legitimate shot blocker. He is averaging 2.7 blocks in his last 16 games. The Cavs considered drafting him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. He's so long. He finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and a block.
10. The Suns have two sets of brothers on the team - twin forwards Markieff and Marcus Morris and guards Zoran and Goran Dragic.
11. Cavs forward Shawn Marion (strained left hip) played for the first time in three games. He was pretty good, too, with a season-high 11 rebounds. He spent the first nine years of his career in the Valley of the Sun. He's a key role player on this team as a backup at small forward and power forward.
UP NEXT: at Los Angeles Lakers, Staples Center, 10:30 p.m. Thursday
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Alex Len (7-1, 260)
Suns - G Zoran Dragic, G Tyler Ennis