After a loss that wasn’t as bad as some media outlets tried to portray, the Cleveland Cavaliers bounced back with an 89-79 win over the Phoenix Suns, as LeBron James ties with Mark Price for the lead in assists for the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Timofey Mozgov gets to be the leading scorer for once.
Mozgov scored 19 points and had a very easy time in the paint against a very small Suns lineup, with Alex Len out with an ankle injury. He finished with 6-of-8 from the field and 7-of-8 from the line as Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker were helpless in their attempts to stop him.
The Cavaliers didn’t even have to work hard in the fourth quarter, scoring just nine points in it and losing by 18 points, and still walking away with the double digit win. It was that easy in the previous minutes, with James still looking shaky after his nine-turnover performance against the Hawks. He scored 17 points on 6-of-16 from the field and turned the ball over four times, but also had six rebounds and eight assists.
Despite the meager production from the backcourt (only 15 points on 6-of-23 from the field) that included Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith, there was never any real problem. Kevin Love finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, always punishing the Suns for leaving him open on the perimeter, while Tristan Thompson helped out with all the misses, grabbing 8 offensive rebounds to finish the game with a double double as well, scoring 15 points to go with 12 boards.
James played without his headband from the second quarter onward. He famously did something similar in the 2013 NBA finals, something that seemed to work for him against the Spurs with the Heat having their backs to the wall. It didn’t seem to have a negative effect this time as well, but don’t count on James now changing his look.
The important thing for the Cavaliers is getting some rest. James admitted the team is zapped after playing four games in five nights with some heavy travel involved. With 17 games left to play for them, they’re not going to catch the Hawks who are 10.5 games in the lead. But beating out the Bulls and Raptors for the second seed is very important, and not letting that loss to the Hawks become too much of a thing is a great way to hit a much needed mini-break.