Jared was pumped up today! Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Just what the Suns needed! A nice, strong win to even their road trip at 2-2 and earn a 25-24 season record (above .500!), the best possible outcome after the Florida Debacle. The Suns scored the game's first 12 points, led by 8 after 1 period, 19 after 2, 21 after 3 and won by a cool 25. The game was never in doubt.

Markieff Morris set a career high with 22 points to go with 5 rebounds and a block. Shannon Brown with 16 points to go with 3 rebounds, a steal and a block. Sebastian Telfair had 7 points and 6 huge, smooth-as-silk assists. The starters did not have to play much, led by Marcin Gortat's 30 minutes in which he scored 22 (the recipient of many of Steve Nash's 13 assists) and pulled down 8 rebounds.

The Cavaliers played bad today, and the Suns played well. The Suns leaders were bench players, and the game was a 108-83 blowout.

Read on for game notes:

This was a nice, fun game to watch for Suns fans. Everything the Suns tried, they succeeded at. The bench looked really good. Rookie Markieff Morris played better than his higher-drafted counterpart Tristan Thompson by a mile. Gortat looked energized again. Shannon Brown looks like he knows what he's doing, as does Sebastian Telfair.

First quarter

  • Gortat came to play! The game started with his own personal 10-0 run on dunks and layups, most of them uncontested.
  • Cleveland's interior defense is bad. And the Suns took advantage of it early.
  • It helps that Cleveland has no centers on their roster. Tristan Thompson - who looked really clueless on offense and defense - and Samardo Samuels are their biggest players.
  • Suns got out to 12-0, then 18-6, then 23-10 leads before Cleveland woke up.
  • The Cavs woke up thanks to some scrappy play from their bench - Luke Walton (I hate that guy), Omri Casspi, Manny Harris and Donald Neal all made a difference. For a while.
Second Quarter
  • Cleveland cut the lead to 31-29, then 33-31
  • Then the Suns bench decided to make a difference when Markieff Morris and Sebastian Telfair decided to go on their own personal 9-0 run.
  • Markieff Morris had 13 points in his first 10 minutes of play, most of it at the rim. Note that he was playing against 2 rookies taken ahead of him in the draft, especially Tristan Thompson.
  • Speaking of shots at the rim, someone has to get it to the big men, and Sebastian Telfair is getting much, much better. He was confident and made some nice setup passes we haven't seen from anyone but than Steve Nash in a while.
  • Plus he hustles, taking balls away from the opposition (steals, rebounds, loose balls) on a regular basis
  • The lead got back to 13 pretty quickly while Morris deservedly stayed on the floor with the starters
  • Cleveland's arena was so quiet at one point that I clearly heard one small child screaming 'de-FENSE' above all others when the Suns were on offense, right after being loudest during a Suns free throw. So cute. :)
  • Nash didn't even take a shot until 30 seconds to go in the half.
  • 59-38 at half as Suns finish on 12-2 run. Shannon Brown is becoming a nice player for the Suns.
Third Quarter
  • Hope Suns don't take the second half off, mentally
  • Cavs start second half scoring on 3 straight possessions
  • There's the shot by Steve, and the steal by Hill. Thanks.
  • Cavs packing the paint now and playing much harder
  • Grant tweaked his knee, out with ice on it. Now Suns defense is going to suffer.
  • Irving picks Nash's pocket, Suns getting sloppy
  • Suns defense is looking slow. Worried this would happen. Suns trying to win without playing defense.
  • Irving taking over now. Uh oh. Lead "down" to 15.
  • Suns trying just to solve their problems by scoring. Forget the other end.
  • Shannon Brown playing well! 12 points in 12 minutes.
  • Okay, back up to 23. Clevelanders are shaking their heads.
  • Now, 15 in 13 minutes for Shannon Brown!
  • The big Cavs run is suddenly over. Game settling back down to bad Cavs shots and good Suns shots. Don't think the Suns had any dunks that quarter, after 7 in the first half. Good on Cleveland to pack the paint. Unfortunately for them, the Suns made jump shots.
  • You know what I don't see any more? Shannon Brown taking the pass, hesitating, dribbling around inside an invisible 3-foot box and then taking an unnecessarily contested jumper. Haven't seen that in a while, as a matter of fact.
  • haha then he does just that with the shot clock winding down. Oh well. I spent too much time writing that prior comment a few minutes ago to delete it. It stays.
Fourth Quarter
  • Morris still looking lively on that drive to the rim, and is Telfair on his. Second half looks like reprisal of the first half, led by Telfair and Morris.
  • This game could get away from the Cavs now, even more than it already is, if they don't get some turnovers
  • and there's a Cavs steal. Suns lead down to 23
  • Telfair just made his second successful drive to the hoop of the 4th quarter (4 points on 2 drives). Not sure if he's had a game this year yet with 2 successful drives in the same game? Can't remember any.
  • Robin got lucky there on his "patented" two-second spin move into the lane with the ball out at waist level. Nearly stripped but the foul was called.
  • Uh oh. Walton and Casspi are back. Seem to always play well against the Suns.
  • Morris for another three! 18 points now.
  • Suns defense remains soft. Tough to keep up the intensity when you're up by 25.
  • Robin is trying too hard on offense. Just pass the ball back out!
  • Stop giving it to Robin on offense!
  • There you go. Give it to Markieff. 2 quick buckets and a career high!
  • And at this point, the game is over. Just a matter of playing out the last few minutes.


No need for any of these in the first half. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Wish all teams played the Suns like the Cavs did in the first half!


Drive to the hole, Steve!  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)




The beat the Suns in January.

Let's return the favor!


Suns won the earlier matchup 101-90, and this time there's no Varejao.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns are 24-24 on the season, in desperate need of every win they can get to make a run at a playoff spot. A win on the road against a young, below-.500 team like the Cavaliers is just what the Suns need.

But wait a minute. This is the same Cavs team that BEAT the Suns in Phoenix in January by 11 points (101-90). They outrebounded the Suns 47-39, made 10 steals and sank 10 of 19 3-pointers. Oops. And now the Cavs are on their home floor.

In fact, the Cavaliers are quite dangerous to more teams than the Suns. They are a better-than-unexpected 17-28 on the year, not far off the Suns' record. They boast the clear #1 rookie in the league in Kyrie Irving, a very talented young Trystan Thompson and Antawn Jamison is playing well enough to be wanted back next year. Throw in a quality coach in Byron Scott and you've got a dangerous team every night.

But all is not lost. The good news for the Suns is that the Cavs are not very good at home (9-14 on the year) and they are just 4-6 in their last 10 games. Add in one of the league's worst defenses - horrendous in March - and you just might begin to feel a glimmer of hope.

I wrote earlier today how the Suns have improved month over month this season, and that they are now playing like one of the best teams in the league.

The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are fading thanks to a porous defense. While their offense has remained steady (though still below average), their defense has gotten considerably worse as the season progressed. Much of that is due to the loss, yet again, of Anderson Varejao. He has not played since Feb 4, just about the time the Cavs' defense went in the toilet.

The Cavaliers can win if Jamison, Thompson and Irving have HUGE individual games and the Suns come in flat and porous.

But as long as the Suns play their offense to the tune of 100+ points, they should go home with a 2-2 record on this recent road swing. A nice recovery from that dud in Florida, and the egg they laid on their home court against the Cavs earlier this season.

It's a good test for the Suns. On the road. Against a team that beat the Suns in January. David Griffin is smiling right now. Let's hope he goes home with a frown after the game tonight.


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Kyrie Irving 41 31.3 7.0 14.8 47.2 1.3 3.3 40.0 3.6 4.1 87.0 1.0 2.9 3.8 5.7 3.1 1.0 0.4 2.3 18.9
Antawn Jamison 45 33.8 7.0 17.0 41.5 1.4 4.2 34.6 2.8 4.2 67.4 2.0 4.8 6.8 1.9 1.2 1.0 0.7 2.6 18.4
Anderson Varejao 25 31.4 4.6 8.9 51.4 0.0 0.2 0.0 1.7 2.6 67.2 4.4 7.1 11.5 1.7 1.8 1.4 0.7 2.5 10.8
Alonzo Gee 45 28.9 3.7 8.5 43.3 0.8 2.4 31.5 2.6 3.4 76.6 1.4 3.2 4.7 1.6 1.9 1.6 0.2 2.5 10.7
Tristan Thompson 39 21.9 3.0 6.9 43.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.6 3.1 52.1 2.8 3.2 6.0 0.4 1.3 0.4 1.1 2.0 7.6
Daniel Gibson 35 26.1 2.5 7.1 35.1 1.6 4.0 39.6 1.0 1.2 79.1 0.3 2.6 2.9 2.2 1.3 0.7 0.5 2.0 7.5
Omri Casspi 45 20.6 2.6 6.1 42.4 0.9 2.6 33.1 0.9 1.5 59.4 1.0 2.5 3.6 1.1 1.1 0.6 0.3 2.0 7.0
Anthony Parker 32 24.3 2.3 5.9 39.4 0.9 2.6 33.3 0.3 0.8 44.0 0.1 2.3 2.4 2.3 0.9 0.7 0.2 1.1 5.8
Manny Harris 6 10.8 2.0 4.5 44.4 0.2 1.0 16.7 1.0 1.7 60.0 0.3 1.5 1.8 0.3 0.5 0.2 0.3 0.7 5.2
Samardo Samuels 33 13.2 1.6 3.8 41.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 2.2 68.5 0.9 2.0 2.9 0.3 1.1 0.4 0.3 2.0 4.7
Semih Erden 23 12.0 1.3 2.4 52.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 1.3 45.2 0.6 2.0 2.6 0.4 0.5 0.3 0.2 2.2 3.1
Donald Sloan 12 9.1 1.2 2.8 41.2 0.1 0.4 20.0 0.4 0.7 62.5 0.4 0.8 1.2 1.6 0.8 0.3 0.0 0.9 2.8
Luke Harangody 15 7.8 0.7 2.5 27.0 0.1 0.9 14.3 0.1 0.1 100.0 0.9 1.0 1.9 0.4 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.8 1.6
Luke Walton 10 6.7 0.6 1.4 42.9 0.0 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.8 1.4 0.5 0.2 0.3 0.0 0.9 1.2

More coverage here:

Suns vs Cavaliers coverage

Suns vs Cavaliers preview

Fear The Sword


These guys are playing at a high level!  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

What we see with our own eyes can actually be proven out by the data itself. What was in January one of the worst teams in the National Basketball Association is now playing like a top-10 team in the entire league.

But that won't mean anything if the Suns don't seal the deal and make the playoffs. Miss the playoffs, and it's a lost season that won't be remembered for anything more than a wasted year of Steve Nash and Grant Hill's lives. But if the Suns can make the playoffs then history will show it as a success.

The Suns have improved month over month at an astounding rate.

The defense (19th overall on the season) was a putrid 24th in January. New defensive coordinator Elston Turner was trying to fix the Suns' defense on the fly, without the benefit of training camp or contact with the players themselves until a week before preseason started. The players were thinking too much, reacting a second too late on most rotations.

By February, the principals began to take hold, allowing the Suns to rise marginally to 22nd in defensive efficiency in February, to now 14th in March. While these numbers are not mind blowing, they certainly show incremental improvement over the course of the season.

The big kicker has been the offensive improvement, and the 'efficiency difference' - the rate by which the Suns' offense outplays the opponent's offense. Which we all know goes back to the golden rule: the key to winning is scoring more points than your opponent.

The Suns' offense has been a relative enigma this season. Gentry came into the year assuming the offense would be fine, while the defense just needed to marginally improve in order to be competitive.

But for some reason, the offense struggled out of the gate despite Steve Nash playing at an all-star level. Part of it was Grant Hill's struggle with recovery from a knee surgery over the offseason. Part of it was Frye and Dudley missing too many open shots. And part of it was the utter struggle of the second unit.

All tolled, the Suns offense was bad. So bad that they were only 18th in the league in January. 18th! But then shots started falling more quickly for the Suns than the rest of the league, and they rose all the way to the 5th-best offense in February. Then the rest of the league caught up in March. The Suns are 9th on offense in March, despite improving their own numbers since February.

Every month, the offense has improved and the defense has improved. In March, the Suns have the 8th-best differential in the league - ratio of offense to defense.

In the West, the Suns' month of March ranks behind only San Antonio, OKC and the LA Lakers, and just ahead of upstart Utah.

Luckily for the Suns, the season isn't over. There is a whole month of games left to decide the playoff picture, and they are only 2 games out of it at this time.

All stats provided by a wonderful site called hoopsstats.com

Other interesting nuggets of parceled data from the same site:

In terms of Efficiency Difference (offense - defense)...

  • The Suns' backcourt was 18th-best in the league before the all-star break, but has jumped all the way to #1 since the All-Star break! (Dudley, Telfair, Redd and Brown have all upped their games considerably)
  • The Suns' starting lineup was 12th-best before the all-star break, and jumped to 7th-best since
  • The Suns bench was a paltry 24th before the all-star break, up marginally to 19th since
  • The Center position is one of strength for the Suns, as we all knew. Suns C's were 6th in the league before the all-star break and still 10th since then despite Gortat's recent fade.
  • Power forward is still a black hole for the Suns. Despite the rest of the team's improvements, the Suns were 25th in PF efficiency difference before the all-star break and down even further to 27th since then. Ugh. Hate to point to a rookie, but Morris has been the biggest culprit here.
  • This year's Suns team, on the whole, is better than last year's Suns team. This year's team is even better than last spring's team with roughly the same starting lineup. Now that this year's offense has caught up to last year's, the biggest remaining difference is that this year's defense is better.

The Suns' growth this season - relative to lowered expectations, of course - has been outstanding. Alvin Gentry deserves some kudos from us fans. He held firm to the notion that the Suns' offense would recover, that the defense would improve and that the bench needs to be trusted. All have come to fruition.

Is it enough to break into the playoffs? Sure, if they keep playing in April - on a road-heavy schedule - as well as they have played in March.


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