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Wrap-Up -- The pregame hype for Monday’s matchup between Cleveland and Phoenix was Devin Booker’s incredible scoring run, averaging 50.0 points per over his last three games.
Booker didn’t explode again on Monday night. But he didn’t have to – instead handing out 13 assists as the Suns evened the season series with the 122-113 win – snapping Cleveland’s eight-game run against them and extending the Wine & Gold’s skein to six games.
As on Saturday in Los Angeles, a first half run led to the Cavs’ undoing.
After turning an early nine-point deficit into a three-point lead late in the first quarter, the Suns proceeded to close the period on an 11-0 run, taking an eight-point edge into the second quarter. Phoenix piled on from there – parlaying that early lead into a 19-point bulge at intermission, putting Cleveland in catch-up mode the rest of the way.
The Cavaliers rallied back to cut the Suns’ 22-point lead to just a touchdown after three quarters and trailed by just six with 3:32 to play, but Booker proceeded to score nine of his 25 points in that final three-minute stretch to put the affair on ice.
Collin Sexton continued his torrid late-season run – leading Cleveland with 21 points on 9-for-23 shooting, adding four boards and three assists.
Monday marked the 12th time in his last 13 games that he’s topped the 20-point plateau – averaging an even 24.0 points per on 52 percent shooting from the floor, 48 percent from long-range and .902 from the stripe.
Jordan Clarkson led a second unit that combined for 55 points – following up with 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting, adding six boards, three assists and a steal in the loss.
Thompson tallies 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Ante Zizic was also outstanding off the bench on Monday – finishing with 15 points, seven boards, two assists and a block – going 5-of-6 from the floor and 5-of-9 from the stripe in just under 14 minutes of work.
Tristan Thompson looked like his old self again on Monday night and added 15 points and five rebounds of his own before dislocating his little finger in the fourth quarter. In 21 minutes of work, Thompson was 6-of-8 from the floor, snagging four of his boards off the offensive glass.
Brandon Knight was the only other Cavalier in double-figures – chipping in with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
Larry Nance Jr. got the start with Kevin Love missing his second straight contest with a sore left shoulder – leading both squads with 12 boards and two steals, adding nine points and a team-high four assists.
Three Suns starters doubled-up, including Booker (25 points, 13 assists), Richaun Holmes (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Dragan Bender (12, 10). But Josh Jackson’s effort off the bench was the difference on Monday – netting 19 points, 10 boards and five of Phoenix’ 12 blocked shots.
And while these aren’t the run-and-gun Suns of the past, they still outran the Cavaliers in this one – outscoring Cleveland on the break, 28-3.
Turning Point -- The game’s initial turning point came late in the first quarter – with Phoenix using an 11-0 run to buy some breathing room.
But despite trailing by 20-plus, the Cavaliers clawed their way back and when Ante Zizic scored the first basket of the fourth quarter, they found themselves down just five.
The Suns answered right back, however, with 19-year veteran Jamal Crawford keying a 14-2 run that put Phoenix up 17 with 8:27 to play. Larry Drew’s squad continued to fight, but didn’t have enough left in the tank to complete the comeback.
By the Numbers – 18 … consecutive games that Jordan Clarkson has reached double-figure scoring off the bench, a season-high. Over that stretch, the fifth-year man is averaging 17.4 points per and his 69 games this season is tops among all NBA reserves.
Quotable – Coach Larry Drew, on his squad’s effort on Monday night in Phoenix …
”One thing that I have put an emphasis on with this club is learning how to play on the road. When you do that, you don’t put yourself into a position like we put ourselves into tonight. But I can’t fault the effort. I can’t fault the fact they kept playing hard, they just came up short.”
Up Next -- With Monday’s loss in Phoenix to tip off the month of April, the Wine & Gold are down to their final four games – including the last two games of the trip later this week, taking on the Kings and Warriors in a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday. On Sunday afternoon, the Cavaliers return home to take on the Spurs in an afternoon affair before wrapping up the campaign on Tuesday, welcoming the Hornets to town for Fan Appreciation Night.