Suns 103, Cavaliers 86
Johnson tied a career-high with 31 points as the Phoenix Suns hurt Cleveland’s playoff hopes with a 103-86 win Tuesday night.
The Cavs’ three-game losing streak—all the losses coming at home—was preceded by a seven-game winning streak. Two of the defeats came without point guard Jeff McInnis, but he returned Tuesday night and the Cavaliers still allowed another team to jump out on them early.
The loss left the Cavaliers just a half-game ahead of Boston for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
“The bottom line is what do we have inside. What are we made of?” Silas said. “And we’re going to find out very soon.”
Amare Stoudemire had 21 points and 11 rebounds in 46 minutes and Shawn Marion scored 20 as Phoenix never trailed. The Suns won back-to-back games for the first time since winning four straight in mid-January.
“This team is learning what it takes,” Stoudemire said. “We know what it takes—that’s going out there and playing defense.”
James finished 8-for-21 for 25 points. Carlos Boozer scored 19 and had 14 rebounds.
The Cavaliers lost Zydrunas Ilgauskas after he broke his nose banging into and fouling Stoudemire in the third quarter. Ilgauskas, who had 14 points, planned to see a doctor Wednesday.
“Losing ‘Z’ was big. He was a big part of us coming back,” Boozer said.
The Cavaliers shot a season-low 31 percent while the Suns shot a season-high 57 percent. Johnson shot 14-for-23, with many of his points coming against James.
“I’m still learning,” James said.
Cavaliers coach Paul Silas said his team wasn’t pressing. He said they just didn’t contest enough shots.
“It’s not the end of the world to lose three games in a row,” Silas said. “We just won seven straight and we are still in eighth place.”
James nearly pulled Cleveland back into it several times, scoring 19 second-half points. But Johnson and Stoudemire made key baskets each time the Cavaliers started to gain momentum.
McInnis played even though his bruised right shoulder wasn’t 100 percent. It affected his shooting as he went 0-for-7. He scored eight points from the foul line and had five assists.
“I felt good passing the ball. When I shot, it just seemed like it hurt a little,” McInnis said. “I did not feel in the groove tonight. I just need to rest the shoulder.”
He said he did not know if he would play Friday at Philadelphia.
Silas said before the game that he’d rather wait until McInnis was completely healthy, but left the decision up to the point guard.
The loss was the second straight blowout for the Cavaliers, who fell to Detroit by 20 points on Sunday. Like the Pistons, the Suns took an early lead and cruised.
The Suns led by 21 in the third period, but James had two steals and six points during an 11-2 run that pulled the Cavaliers to 79-67.
The Cavaliers got within seven in the fourth quarter on James’ three-point play and a layup, but Johnson kept the Cavaliers from pulling any closer by responded with a quick score to start a 7-0 run.
“Joe Johnson, obviously, was a beast tonight, but he had a lot of support from the other guys,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said.
The Suns opened up a 14-point first-quarter lead on back to back 3-pointers by Marion.
Phoenix widened the lead to 60-41 at halftime by beating Cleveland in every aspect of the game. Johnson hurt the Cavaliers from the outside and theycouldn’t find an answer for Stoudemire inside.
The Suns have won nine of 10 against the Cavaliers. … Cleveland couldn’t hit much from the field, but shot 90 percent (29-for-32) from the foul line. … The Suns have won nine road games. They have three games left on a four-game road trip. … Eric Williams was 1-for-9. … The Suns’ Jake Voskuhlmissed his fourth straight game with a sore left foot.