Cavs stop Suns' home streak at 19
Nobody has been able to beat the Suns in Phoenix, except the
LeBron James and his Cleveland teammates made it two in a row in the desert with a 109-91 triumph on Monday night.
The Suns had won 19 straight at home since Cleveland beat them there on March 12 last season. At 10-0, they were the only team in the NBA without a home loss this season.
Cleveland ended that run with a dominant fourth quarter.James and Mo Williams did the offensive damage and the Cavaliers' defense stifled the Suns in a late 15-0 run.
James scored 29 and Williams 24 as the Cavs shot 53 percent one night after a tough loss at Dallas.
"Just a veteran ballclub," James explained. "We know how important back-to-back games are and bounce-back games. We don't let one loss linger around our team. We never have."
Steve Nash had 18 points and 10 assists for Phoenix.
"They have a great, great player on their team," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "They play off him and really do a good job of it. They have guys that can space the floor and make shots. Contrary to what anybody may think, to get to the Eastern Conference championships, you are going to have to go through Cleveland at some point."
Shaquille O'Neal didn't get much of a reaction from the fans in his first game in Phoenix since the Suns traded him to Cleveland, just a smattering of cheers and boos when he was introduced.
In foul trouble much of the night, O'Neal had three points and five rebounds in 19 minutes. Afterward, he brushed off the boos from the crowd.
"You have to realize nothing bothers me," he said. "When I'm done playing, my name will be remembered, so it doesn't matter if they cheer or they boo because that don't hurt my feelings."
The Suns' Amare Stoudemire, also plagued by foul problems, had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
"We didn't have a real winning mentality tonight," Nash said. "I thought we were hesitant and a little doubtful rather than bold and aggressive and determined. I think that was the difference."
Cleveland scored 30 points off 18 Phoenix turnovers and the usually fast-paced Suns had just four fast-break points.
"I thought our guys at the defensive end of the floor, their effort was tremendous," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.
After cutting the lead to 92-76, Phoenix went 6:13 without a field goal as Cleveland outscored the Suns 17-5 down the stretch.
"Defensively, we just stepped up another notch," James said. "That's when we make our mark, that's on the defensive end."
The Cavaliers haven't lost two in a row since dropping the first two games of the season to Boston and Toronto.
An 11-3 run at the end of the second quarter and start of the third put Cleveland ahead 63-55. The Suns tied it for the final time at 65 on Nash's 13-footer with 7 1/2 minutes left in the third.
Cleveland responded with a 13-4 run, and an 18-footer by Zydrunas Ilgauskas put the Cavaliers ahead 78-69 with 2:04 left in the period. Cleveland led 82-75 entering the fourth.
Cleveland got significant help from its reserves. Anderson Varejao scored 13 and Delonte West had 12 points and three steals.
"It's not always about me," James said. "That's not how we win games and that's not why we're one of the best teams in the league, because everybody contributes when they come to the game. I get a lot of the media talk and a lot of the hoopla but at the end of the day we're a ballclub that's very good and we have some guys that know how to play the game."
The Cavs were up 59-53 after a tight first half that featured two spectacular dunks by James, one from each side of the basket. There were 18 lead changes and 15 ties in the first two quarters.
NOTES: The Suns could have injured guard Leandro Barbosa (sprained ankle) back for their Christmas night game against the Los Angeles Clippers. ... James entered the game averaging 31.4 points per game on the road, 25.4 at home. ... In a matchup of the two best 3-point shooting teams in the league, Cleveland was 5 of 12, Phoenix 4 of 19. ... Cleveland is on a four-game road trip that climaxes with a Christmas Day game against the Los Angeles Lakers.