Final Dime: Suns 108, Cavaliers 100
Manny Harris finished with 27 points and eight boards on Sunday night in Phoenix.
The struggling Cavaliers found themselves and the Suns knotted up at 81-apiece to start the fourth quarter. But Cleveland’s young guns hit the wall in the final period, shooting just 17 percent and dropping their 10th straight decision, 108-100, on Sunday night in Phoenix.
Just hours before tip-off in the Valley of the Sun, the Wine and Gold got word that starting center Anderson Varejao – who was originally expected to miss five to ten days – will instead be shelved for the rest of the season.
J.J. Hickson assumed his role in the pivot and played probably his finest game of the year – finishing with 23 point points, 17 boards, three assists, two steals and a block.
“As long as I’m on the floor, I’m trying to win and help my team as much as I can,” said Hickson. “I just really went after it.”
Hickson was joined in the starting lineup by rookies, Manny Harris – getting just his fourth career start – and Christian Eyenga – getting his first. Veterans Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams filled out the starting five.
That unit went toe-to-toe with Phoenix. Both clubs were tied after one period, with Cleveland leading by one at half and the two even again to start the fourth. At that point, the Cavaliers lack of experience surfaced, and the seasoned Suns used a late 6-0 run to give them all the breathing space they’d need.
“I thought our guys played their butts off and played extremely hard,” praised Coach Scott. “I’m really proud of our young guys, Manny, Christian and Samardo, I thought they really did an excellent job.”
Manny Harris was every bit as good as Hickson, following up a strong effort in Oakland on Friday with a 27-point, eight rebound performance on Sunday in the desert. Manny logged 41 minutes and didn’t commit his first (and only) turnover until the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
The only other Cavalier to notch double-figures was Jamison – who tallied 23 points on 9-for-23 shooting, adding seven boards and a team-high three steals in the loss.
The Wine and Gold shot just 30 percent in the second half of Sunday’s affair, while the Suns clocked in at 54 percent – going 8-of-15 from beyond the arc after intermission. Steve Nash scored 15 of his 20 points in the second stanza; Jared Dudley, 15 of his 21.
As if things were tough enough, Cleveland’s road trip gets a little tougher as they travel next to Los Angeles, where they’ll take on the World Champs on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
2. Anderson Varejao’s season was cut short on Sunday when a follow-up MRI obtained in Phoenix at St. Joseph’s Hospital confirmed a tear of the peroneus longus tendon in the midfoot of his right ankle and foot. Andy will travel with the team to Los Angeles and likely head back to Cleveland after that.
3. Before Sunday’s loss, the Cavaliers had won four straight over the Suns.
4. J.J. Hickson is once again starting to become a factor for the Cavaliers. In his four January games, Hickson is averaging 17.0 points and 9.0 boards per contest. He’s now tallied 17 or more points in three of his last four outings.
5. Hickson’s 17 rebounds – including nine off the offensive glass – were a career-best for the third-year forward.
6. The beat goes on for Antawn Jamison, who continues to be the Cavaliers most consistent scorer. He’s notched double-figures in each of the Cavs last 13 games, averaging 21.7 during that stretch.
7. In Manny Harris’ last two starts, he’s averaging 21.5 points and 9.0 boards – going 13-for-22 from the floor.
8. Mo Williams continued his hot streak of distributing the basketball. He notched double-digit assist numbers again on Sunday night and has exactly 100 helpers over his last 10 games.
9. Only two games after making his first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform, Christian Eyenga got the first start of his young career. The former first-rounder from the Congo finished with eight points, five boards and a pair of blocks. He took a nasty spill in the second half and looked to have injured his ankle. But he was able to walk off under his own power.
10. With Eyenga cracking the starting lineup on Sunday, Byron Scott has now used 13 different starting lineups in 37 games.
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.