Cavaliers 129, Suns 107: LeBron James records career-best 14th triple-double as Cavs rediscover funThe Akron Beacon Journal — Marla Ridenour The Akron Beacon Journal
March 14--PHOENIX -- Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena, the Cavaliers' focus was twofold -- putting it all together with just a month left in the regular season and trying to avoid embarrassment.
The mood was morose after the Cavs lost two in Los Angeles to open a six-game road trip 1-2. But the struggling Suns, losers of 21 of their last 23 games, provided the perfect pick-me-up.
The Cavs got back to their fun-loving ways in recording their sixth consecutive victory over the Suns, 129-107.
Kyle Korver fired in 3s off LeBron James assists. The Cavs picked up the pace and ran with abandon. Jeff Green dunked off a long alley-oop from James. John Holland's pass perfectly hit a cutting James and James completed the and-one.
The night was capped by a James windmill dunk that came at what seemed like an appropriate time in the third quarter -- 7:47 -- considering his flight path to the basket.
James recorded his 14th triple-double, his high in a single season, and 69th of his career before going to the bench with 10:02 remaining. Scoring 28 points with 13 rebounds and 11 assists, James connected on 7-of-14 field goals, 1-of-2 3-pointers and 13-of-15 free throws in 33 minutes.
James' previous high for triple-doubles was 13 last season. Asked what 14 says about him, he said, "I'm like fine wine -- I get better with age. That's what it says."
Watching were several members of the Indians enjoying their day off, including manager Terry Francona, shortstop Francisco Lindor, catchers Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez and infielder Giovanny Urshela.
Before the game, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue announced he was benching J.R. Smith in favor of Korver and it worked out in both players' favors.
With eight minutes left in the second quarter, Smith had seven points, more than he'd scored in three of the past four games. He looked totally at ease on a 23-foot step-back 3-pointer with 3:55 left in the period that finished a 10-0 Cavs run that put them up by 22.
Smith finished with 14 points, making 5-of-12 from the field and 2-for-4 beyond the arc. He passed Kevin Love (552) for fifth place on Cavs' all-time 3-point list and recorded his 3,000th career rebound.
Korver got more time with James and made the most of it. In the first half, four of James' five assists went to Korver, three on 3s and another on a layup. In 23 minutes, Korver totaled 22 points, his most since Feb. 9 at Atlanta, where he scored a season-high 30. Korver shot 6-of-7 from the field, 5-of-6 from long range.
"We always work well together since the time he got here," James said of Korver, who arrived in a January 2017 trade with the Hawks. "If he's on the floor, we have to find him. He works well without the ball, with his body movement. A lot of teams kind of mess up the coverage when they try to track him. Our bigs do a great job of getting him open, too, when we run a lot of actions for him. He was able to knock them down. He played exceptionally well tonight."
Korver said everybody benefits from playing with James.
"He commands a lot of attention. He sees the whole floor," Korver said. "Obviously he's always reading what my man is doing and is able to hit me in my spots when I'm open. He makes everybody better."
The Cavs played without forwards Love (broken left hand), Rodney Hood (low back strain) and Cedi Osman (left hip strain) and center Tristan Thompson (sprained left ankle). Lue said Hood will be back in the lineup when he returns, possibly as early as Thursday at Portland.
Lue said he liked what he saw after what happened against the Clippers and Lakers.
"Coming off the two games in LA, come out here tonight and just play well early, set the tone early, was good for us," Lue said. "But I thought we did it with our defense tonight. I thought we did some good things. In the second quarter we kind of let our guard down, we got up by so many points. But, overall pretty pleased with the performance."
Revere High School product Larry Nance Jr. played just 14 minutes and scored four points with two rebounds. With a right hamstring issue, he was held out of the rout for precautionary reasons.
"He just has some right hamstring tightness. Just wanted to be cautious. No need to try to push through it so we decided to set him down," Lue said. "It's been going on a little bit the last couple games, so tonight, we was just like, it's not worth it."
After the game, Nance dismissed it as nothing and said he was fine.
The Suns saw three of their four leading scorers -- Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson -- return from injury after missing Saturday's loss at Charlotte.
Since winning the NBA 3-Point Contest, Booker came into the night ranked second in the NBA in scoring (31.4) and had six 30-point games, tied with James for the most in the league. Booker didn't take a shot until 4:20 remained in the first quarter and it was blocked by Nance. Booker finished with 17 points, three rebounds and six assists.
The Cavs had trailed after the first quarter in seven of their last eight games, but jumped out to a 38-18 advantage on 55 percent shooting from the field. They also connected on 4-of-6 3s and 12-of-15 free throws while the Suns were making just 26 percent, including 1-of-10 from long range, and 3-of-3 from the line.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.
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