Cleveland Cavaliers shake off emotional hangover in late finale and rally to beat Phoenix Suns 90-88

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Cavaliers shook off their emotional hangovers just in time.

Two nights after Donovan Mitchell’s historic performance, Cleveland looked exhausted and listless for most of the game. But, as they had throughout the season, the Cavs continued to struggle and found a way in the fourth quarter, defeating the weakened Phoenix Suns 90-88. Phoenix has lost four consecutive games and seven of the last eight. Cleveland has already won three straight.

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The Cavs missed nine consecutive shots to open the game. They didn’t make their first field goal until the 5:38 mark of the first quarter. They were 0-for-14 from 3-point range to start. He racked up just 33 points on 28.9% shooting and 15.8% from 3-point range in a hideous first half – his lowest all season.

Though the offense improved slightly in the second half, the Cavs won Wednesday’s game on the defensive end of the court — staying true to their identity.

“I thought that even though our offense was obviously struggling, we didn’t give in to it,” Cavs head coach JB Bickerstaff said after the win. “We gave ourselves a chance because we continue to compete on the defensive end of the court. That’s what you have to do.”

Cleveland held Phoenix to 88 points on 39.5% shooting and 35.7% from beyond the arc. Despite trailing by five points going into the fourth quarter, the Cavs turned up the intensity and smothered the Suns further in the fourth quarter. Over those 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, Cleveland limited the Suns to 24 points, shooting 8-of-23 (34.8%) and 2-of-6 (33%) from deep.

The Cavs won the decisive fourth, 31-24.

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It was a disappointing brace for Mitchell, who scored a franchise-high 71 points during Monday’s overtime win against Chicago, becoming just the seventh player in NBA history to join that exclusive club. Worn out physically and mentally, as well as being hounded by the Suns all night, Mitchell added just 20 points on 6-for-20 from the field and 3-for-12 from depth in 36 minutes.

“I really didn’t have my legs tonight,” he said. “I was trying to force myself to be solid.”

The superstar saved his best for last, hitting a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left that gave the Cavs an 88-85 lead – their first lead of the second half. But Suns point guard Landry Shamet responded, tying the game at 88 apiece.

On the ensuing possession, Mitchell drove to the left of the lane with the clock ticking down and found young Evan Mobley for the 14-foot go-ahead.

Like so many other games this season, Cleveland needed a break. Got it. Again. Mitchell, who correctly predicted the Suns final play, troubled Suns swingman Mikal Bridges just enough to force a fault at the buzzer. Mitchell grabbed the rebound and kicked it the other way in celebration as the best defensive team in the NBA appeared once again.

Bridges was just 3 of 15 shots on Monday night. The Suns were without Devin Booker, who remains sidelined with a groin strain. Phoenix also lost backup guard Cameron Payne in the first half. Payne was unable to finish due to a foot injury. Veteran point guard Chris Paul tried to make up for the balanced Phoenix, who had all five starters score in double figures. Paul finished with a game-high 25.

Returning from a two-game absence with a sore right ankle, Mobley said after the game that he couldn’t remember the last time he gave a winning shot. He will never forget this one.

“I thought they would probably send a double or go for Donovan because he draws a lot of attention and must make the last play and stuff like that,” Mobley said. “I just made myself available, went over and dropped the shot.

“Hopefully more to come.”

The 21-year-old Rookie of the Year runner-up was just 1 of 8 shots before hitting the biggest shot of his young career. He finished with six points and eight rebounds.

“I was in the moment and I made the shot,” Mobley said of the jumper. “I was just trying to calm down because we still had a few seconds left in the game. We still needed to make another stop to steal the victory.

Caris LeVert led the way for the Cavs, who trailed by nearly 41 minutes on Wednesday night. He scored 21 points, including nine of the team’s first 11 in the fourth quarter opener, which shocked the crowd and spurred the rally.

Reserve guard Raul Neto, little used, scored 14, providing a spark in the second half with confusing plays and well-timed shots.

“Extremely impactful,” Bickerstaff said of Neto. “His ability to catch guys across the court, dodge, move his feet, keep people in front of him, be disruptive. Then again, there were times when we were fighting offensively where he found a way to get a bucket. He was huge for us.”

Cedi Osman added 12 as the Cleveland bench ended the game with a 34-14 lead.

Darius Garland missed his third consecutive game with a sprained right thumb – an absence that once again contributed to Cleveland’s foul offense.

Before the game, Bickerstaff called the emotional hangover the “real thing”. He knew, after a memorable Monday, that the Cavs would have to win.

At several points it looked like they were going from highest to lowest – in just 48 hours.

It might have been ugly. But that’s the way the petty Cavs like it. A win is a win.

“I wish we could win every game by 20 points,” said Bickerstaff. “But the competition of having to do all the little things over and over again, having to accept individual challenges, having to accept team challenges, having to discard and fight for it, that’s the purity of competition. If you have that courage, you can find a way to do it.”


The Cavs begin their longest road trip remaining this season. It all starts with a matchup against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 pm

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