Suns-Cavaliers Preview - Jan. 19, 2011
Posted Jan 18 2011 4:33PM
The Phoenix Suns, all but written off as a potential factor in the Western Conference playoff race a week ago, suddenly have reason to believe they can make a postseason push after three straight victories.
That optimism might disappear if they can't make it four.
Phoenix continues its five-game eastern road trip Wednesday in Cleveland, where the woebegone Cavaliers return from their own five-game nightmare looking to avoid a 14th consecutive loss. The Suns (18-21) already made one major trade this season designed to shed salary with the Vince Carter deal, and during a 4-12 stretch from Dec. 7-Jan. 11, speculation picked up over whether they were considering trading two-time MVP Steve Nash.
They're still 2 1/2 games behind Portland for the West's No. 8 playoff seed, but over the past week, they've looked capable of jumping back in the postseason picture. Nash had 23 points apiece in back-to-back home wins over New Jersey and Portland, then Carter scored 29 in a 129-121 road win Monday over New York - the same team that beat them by 25 just 10 days earlier.
"I am not sure we fixed anything," Nash said. "We are just competing more and not dropping our heads when things go our way. We are finding a way to fight."
Phoenix has certainly found a way to fix an offense that became stagnant during a stretch of six games where it hit triple digits just once. The Suns are shooting 49.8 percent - 47.5 percent from 3-point range - and averaging 120.7 points during their three-game winning streak, tied for their longest this season.
They're 11-2 if they score more than 110 points and just 7-19 otherwise.
"I know that thing about defense wins championships, but I still haven't seen a team yet win a game 0-0," coach Alvin Gentry said. "You've got to be able to make shots and put it in the basket."
Twenty turnovers hurt Phoenix's offense when the Cavaliers (8-32) visited Jan. 9, but the Suns made 13 of 28 3-pointers - including five from Jared Dudley - in a 108-100 victory.
Cleveland watched all five teams during its road trip make at least 10 3-pointers. No team since 1986-87 has allowed six consecutive opponents to make 10 or more shots from beyond the arc. In the final three games of its road trip, Cleveland lost by a franchise-worst 55 points against the Lakers, gave up 70 first-half points in a 22-point loss at Utah, then allowed Denver to score 80 in the opening 24 minutes of Saturday's 127-99 defeat.
The Cavaliers, who have lost 23 of 24, surrendered an average of 116.8 points on the trip.
"It's tough anytime you lose, but that is why we are professionals," guard Ramon Sessions said. "You have to show up to work every day, continue to work hard and go out there and give it all you got."
Though forward Anderson Varejao will undergo season-ending ankle surgery this week, the Cavaliers have some good news on the injury front. Guard Daniel Gibson should return from an ankle injury that kept him from traveling on the road trip.
Mo Williams, who hurt his hip at Denver, likely will miss Wednesday's game.
That's good news for Phoenix. Williams averaged 27.3 points in Cleveland's four straight victories in the series prior to the loss earlier this month.
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