PHOENIX (AP) The Phoenix Suns, with one of the worst records in the West, threatened to make it an embarrassing night for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Until LeBron James set things straight.
James scored 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter as the Cavs fought off Phoenix down the stretch for a 120-116 victory Sunday night.
”I am just confident in my ability,” James said. ”I work on my craft. I work on my shooting every day so it is always an option I could go to. I just try to mix it up, playing interior, playing transition, playing on the exterior and I was able to knock a couple of them down.”
Kyrie Irving added 27 points and Kevin Love 25 for the Cavaliers. They led by as many as 22 in the first half and 20 early in the third quarter.
”We play well, you play hard and get the lead and playing the right way then we just messed around,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said.
The Suns tied it late in the third and got within one in the fourth but never took the lead.
”We made enough plays down the stretch to win,” James said. ”We played good ball except for the third quarter. We allowed them to get out in transition and them being young and athletic they took advantage of it.”
Eric Bledsoe scored 31 points and Devin Booker had 28 for the Suns.
James sank consecutive 3-pointers, his only 3s of the game, to give Cleveland a 115-109 lead with 2:46 to play and scored on a driving layup with 44 seconds left to make it 120-114.
”That’s what makes him one of the greatest,” Booker said. ”We knew down the stretch he wants the ball in his hands and he wants to make the play and he did that. He hit two tough shots, 3s in transition.”
The young Suns turned aggressive and got their running game going to outscore Cleveland 25-7 in one stretch of the third quarter. Tyson Chandler’s inside basket cut the Cav’ lead to 84-82 with 3:31 left in the period.
Phoenix tied it twice before the quarter ended, the last at 90 when Booker banked in an 8-footer with 11.2 seconds left, but Irving sank a 3 at the buzzer and Cleveland led entering the fourth 93-90.
The Sun got within one three times early in the final quarter, the last at 98-97 on Booker’s left-handed drive with 9:37 left. After Phoenix rookie Dragan Bender missed a 3, Irving sank one, then added an acrobatic driving layup to put the Cavaliers up 104-98 with 7:38 left.
The Suns still were down only 109-107 after Marquese Chriss made one of two free throws with 4:28 to play but James sank his first three to boost it to 112-107. Bledsoe’s layup cut it to 112-109, and James sank his second 3 to make it a six-point game. Phoenix never got closer than four after that.
”I’m mad we lost but at the same time this is one of those games that was I guess a good loss,” Bledsoe said. ”We competed with one of the top teams in the league. To be down like that and come back says a lot. We’ve just got to start playing like this night in and night out.”