Cavs seek another momentum-building win against Suns
CLEVELAND -- The Phoenix Suns can serve as a test for Cleveland Cavaliers acting coach Larry Drew's theory.
See, after Cleveland clawed its way back from 15 points down to topple the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors on Wednesday behind 35 points and 17 assists from LeBron James, and on a night when five rotation players and coach Tyronn Lue were out, Drew said it was a win upon which the Cavs' season might turn.
"I always say there is one game during the season that changes your team," Drew said. "That game can be early, it can be midway, it can be late. There's always one game that kind of changes your team, the mindset. And I really believe tonight's game might have done that for us."
If the Cavs beat the Suns on Friday night in Cleveland, they will have won four straight and five of six. They'll tighten their grip on third place in the East and may start to pick up some momentum as they head toward the playoffs.
And if the Suns win ...
Phoenix has lost nine straight and 24 of its last 26, and owns the worst record in the NBA. The Suns are last in the league in 3-point shooting and defense.
Their top two players, Devin Booker and TJ Warren, have been out with minor injuries. Tyson Chandler hasn't played in four games and Thursday, general manager Ryan McDonough said it was unlikely he'd play again this season.
That No. 1 pick in the June draft is in the Suns' sights.
"Tyson's a very selfless guy," McDonough told 98.7 FM Arizona's Sports Station's Burns & Gambo. "He really expressed an interest to us in giving Alex Len an opportunity to play."
McDonough also said of Booker's availability: "We've left that decision totally up to him whether to play or not."
As for the Cavs, they could get Tristan Thompson and Rodney Hood back Friday. Thompson has missed the last eight games with a sprained right ankle and Hood has missed the last three with lower back soreness.
Larry Nance Jr. (right hamstring injury) also could potentially return. Kyle Korver is not with the team after the death of his brother Tuesday. Cedi Osman remains out with a left hip flexor strain.
James, meanwhile, became the first NBA player to score 35 points with at least 15 assists and no turnovers in a game since the league started tracking turnovers in 1977-78. He scored 14 points in the fourth quarter in the win over the Raptors.
"It's a good win for us because of how depleted we are on our roster and everything that's been going on," James said. "It's a good win for us against a very good opponent. But I don't need to remind anybody about what my teams are capable of doing."
James is third in the NBA in scoring (27.4 points per game), second in assists (9.1) and tied for 14th in rebounds (8.6).
"I've never seen anything like it, to be perfectly honest with you," Drew said. "I mean, 17 assists. What'd he have, 35 points and no turnovers? It's just amazing at what he does, night in and night out.
"How he sustains it, is just mind-boggling. And he's just one of those guys. First of all, he is so driven to win and to be the best. What he brings for us, I mean it's just, you can't describe it.
"But he is the guy we know that we go through and depend on a lot, and we need him to bring the other guys along, which he has done. It just seems like every night, every night the things that he (does), I sit over there and I just kind of shake my head. I'm just glad that I'm coaching him."
Updated March 22, 2018