Cavaliers look to get well against slumping Suns
PHOENIX -- Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue admitted what the numbers shouted Sunday: the Lakers in general -- and power forward Julius Randle in particular-- strong-armed their way through the Cavaliers in a 127-113 victory.
The Cavaliers will look to reverse roles against a Phoenix team that despite putting up a lot of fight at Charlotte on Saturday has not had the results to match when the teams meet Tuesday at the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Randle had a career-high 36 points and 14 rebounds Sunday while at times going against LeBron James, who had 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The Lakers had a 51-37 rebounding edge.
"I thought he just out-toughed us," Lue said of Randle. "He bullied us all night and we had no answer for him."
After winning four in a row with victories over Boston and Oklahoma City amid the euphoria of the team remake at the trade deadline, the Cavs (38-28) have lost six of 10, including consecutive games against the L.A. teams in the second and third games of their season-long six-game road trip.
The Suns (19-49) have lost five in a row, 15 of 16 and 20 of 22, with two five-game losing streaks and a 10-game losing streak in that stretch. Their only victories have come at Memphis and home to Dallas. They have said they are not trying to lose to enhance their draft position.
James' only appearance against the Lakers at Staples Center this season engendered the usual speculation about his possible relocation to the cap-savvy Lakers, who will have money to spend on big-time free agents this summer, when James can opt out of the final year of a three-year, $100 million contract and become a free agent
James, 33, was positive in his short assessment of Lakers coach Luke Walton, which could be read as a neutral observation or a sign of interest.
"Since Luke took over, they've improved every single season, I think," James told reporters. "They just try to implement that ball movement, that body movement that he got when he was (an assistant coach) in Golden State."
James is averaging 26.9 points a game and has 39 double-doubles and 13 triple-doubles.
Cleveland is in fourth place in the tightly contested middle of the Eastern Conference playoff pack as the teams scramble for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Cavaliers are one-half game behind third-place Indiana, one-half game ahead of fifth-place Washington and another game head of sixth-place Philadelphia. They have scored at least 110 points in six of their last seven road games while winning five. They have scored at least 110 points in 35 games.
The Suns, meanwhile, are playing for next season for the second season in a row. They played without their top three scorers in a 122-115 loss at Charlotte on Saturday.
Devin Booker, who is ninth in the NBA with a 25.3 scoring average, missed the game with a left triceps strain and TJ Warren (19.7 points per game) was held out because of back spasms. Rookie Josh Jackson (11.5) also missed the game because of a knee injury suffered in a Thursday loss at Oklahoma City.
Booker, Warren and Jackson are considered probable for the Cavs after practicing Monday, when the Suns also signed backup point Shaquille Harrison to a multi-year deal as his second 10-day contract was about to expire. He had 14 points and four assists in 21 minutes at Charlotte.
Even though the Suns dressed only 11 players, including three who have spent most of the season in the G-League, they trimmed a 22-point deficit to two in the final two minutes of the Hornets' game while scoring 43 points in the fourth quarter, a season high for any quarter.
"We had a lot of guys really step up," interim coach Jay Triano told reporters. "I was really pleased with the complete effort."
Updated March 12, 2018