Shorthanded Suns come up short against Cavs

PHOENIX — Without their playmaking point guard for an extended period and without a pair of lead assistants for good, the Suns on Monday shook off the recent drama but couldn’t shake off bad luck.

Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving beat a scrambling Suns defense and the shot clock on a broken play for a long 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to send Phoenix to its fifth straight loss, 101-97 at a packed Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Irving’s shot thwarted a valiant though not-always pretty Suns effort and came right after Tyson Chandler was called for an illegal screen that negated a Brandon Knight go-ahead 3.

Knight on the court argued the shot should have counted anyway. Chandler and coach Jeff Hornacek disputed the call, a stance Hornacek maintained afterward.

"You see picks all game that are illegal and then all of a sudden they’re going to call that one," Hornacek said. "So that’s a tough one right there."

Cavaliers 101, Suns 97

It was the Suns’ first game without guard Eric Bledsoe, who on Tuesday will have surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and is expected to miss at least six weeks. They also were without two assistant coaches who were fired Sunday night in a move the front office hopes shakes up a team that is 5-16 in its last 21 games.

"With everything that is going on, guys came out and played hard," said Knight, who had 18 points and was the primary ball-handler for all 38 minutes he was on the court. "We came out and fought in the game, all the way down to the last minute. I think we put ourselves in a position to win, or least try to win."

T.J. Warren led the Suns with 23 points and made 4-of-5 3s. He had a big second quarter to keep the Suns close and then sparked a fourth-quarter comeback after the offense went cold at the end of the third.

"We executed, we played the right way and we played good basketball," Warren said. "So we want to continue to do that moving forward."

The Suns — who were without forward Markieff Morris for the second game of his team-imposed, two-game suspension — made just one field goal and scored six points in the final 7:59 of the third quarter. But they held LeBron James to 14 points and it was a five-point game, 92-87, with four minutes to play, and then a two-point game, 94-92, with two minutes left.

Knight, who had made just seven of his last 40 3s since a 7-for-14 performance against Minnesota on Dec. 13, sank a long 3 with 1:27 left to pull the Suns within 96-95. Knight also hit his next one and the crowd erupted — thinking the Suns had a two-point lead — before the call against Chandler waived it off.

"I’m sure whether it was legal (or) illegal, I can guarantee (Matthew) Dellavedova probably pulled Tyson. It’s the trick. … He suckered the (ref) into calling it."

Dellavedova wasn’t on the court at the time. Chandler was tangled up with Iman Shumpert on the play.

Irving hit his big 3 on Cleveland’s next possession to essentially put the game away. He was 1 for 6 from 3-point range before that shot.

"I got a good look," Irving said. "It was one of those broken-down possessions where we were lucky."

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