NBA News Wire

Suns battle back to defeat Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND — Say what you want about the Phoenix Suns, but they are a resilient bunch.

“We are a really hard-nosed team,” Suns guard Goran Dragic said. “It doesn’t matter if we are up or down 20 points. We are still going to battle until the end.”

The Suns (25-18) battled back from a 20-point deficit in the first half to shock the host Cleveland Cavaliers, 99-90, on Sunday before 15,872 at Quicken Loans Arena.

It was a collapse of epic proportions.

The Cavaliers had to have been feeling good about themselves in the first half, as they took an 18-point lead into the locker room.

Some were suggesting it was their most complete half of the season.

All that changed in the second half, as the Cavs crumbled and were outscored, 56-29.

“I’m disappointed that we came out and played that way,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “We should all be embarrassed with the way we played in second half.”

The Cavs’ major damage occurred in the third quarter. A 3-point barrage by the Suns started the second half with the Cavaliers on the heels. By the time the third quarter was over, the Cavs had been outscored, 25-6.

The Suns were suffocating defensively in the third, as the Cavs shot a woeful 2-for-22 from the field. NBA teams don’t oftentimes shoot nine percent from the floor for an entire 12-minute quarter.

The six-point effort was a season low for the Cavs in any quarter this season. It also tied a Suns’ franchise record for fewest points allowed in a quarter. It came close to tying the Cavs’ all-time mark of four points in a quarter.

Forward Channing Frye connected on all three 3-point goals in the third. The Suns made five of 12 from behind the arc in the third.

“It was hard to watch,” Brown said.

He said the coaches conferred with the players at halftime, encouraging them to continue to defend and to close out on the Suns’ shooters.

“We came out and did the opposite of everything we talked about,” Brown said.

Suns forward Markieff Morris came off the bench and had a game-high 27 points and 15 rebounds.

Dragic added 15 points, five rebounds and seven assists, while forward P.J. Tucker had 13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals.

“They outworked us in the second half, simply put,” Cavs guard Kyrie Irving said.

Irving had a team-high 24 points, a game-high nine assists and two steals for the Cavs. He was 8-for-23 from the field, including 0-for-3 from the 3-point line.

Forward Luol Deng finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while forward Tristan Thompson added 17 points and 13 rebounds.

The Cavs suffered a major scare with 4 minutes, 25 seconds left in the game when center Anderson Varejao fell awkwardly to the court. He held his left knee. However, he stayed in the game. He had just two points, but pulled down 10 rebounds.

The medical staff said it’s general wear and tear on his knee. He’ll be further evaluated on Monday.

“I was worried,” Brown said. “His knee was bothering him a little bit. It was tough to see.”

The Cavs opened up a 61-43 advantage at halftime, but fans were still a bit wary. They’ve seen them blow leads like that before.

“I got on our case pretty much about defense,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “In the first half, we didn’t give an effort. I said they average 96 points, and they have 61 already.

“I said to come out in the second half and play defense like we are supposed to, be aggressive, and you’ll slowly climb back in the game.”

Brown said the turning point came when the Suns came out for the second half and made five 3-point goals, three by Frye, in a span of 3:41.

“Part of it was them hitting five 3s — bang, bang, bang, bang, bang — and them gaining confidence, and us starting to wonder,” he said. “I didn’t see lack of effort, (maybe) a lack of focus.

“Channing Frye was just standing out there. We relaxed mentally, and did things weren’t supposed to do.”

NOTES: The Cavs dropped to 1-3 on the five-game homestand that ends on Tuesday vs. New Orleans. Remember, this was supposed to be the homestand that jump-started their serious playoff push. “It’s very frustrating,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. … The Cavaliers recalled F Sergey Karasev and G Carrick Felix from the NBA Development League. Brown said the action they received in the D-League was “priceless.” … Cavs big men Anderson Varejao (10.3) and Tristan Thompson (9.8) are pulling down a combined 20.1 rebounds per game. Among Eastern Conference duos, they trail only the Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, who combined for 21.5 entering Sunday. … G Goran Dragic, the Suns’ leading scorer and playmaker, has a fan in Brown. “I thought since he’s been in the league, if he had a team that’s his own, had the right people around him and in the right system, he could really do some damage,” Brown said. … Suns G Eric Bledsoe (right arthroscopic knee surgery) should be back sometime after the All-Star break. He came on the team’s four-game East Coast trip to do his rehab work with the training staff.