Cavs hang on to beat Suns

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[January 09, 2017]  PHOENIX -- What looked like an easy night at the office quickly turned into a fourth-quarter dogfight for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But in the end, their big dogs had enough left to take care of business.

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love combined for 80 points for Cleveland, who blew a 20-point third-quarter lead but hung on to beat the Phoenix Suns 120-116 on Sunday.

James had 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, including two 3-pointers 25 seconds apart to stretch a two-point Cleveland lead to a 115-109 with 2:47 left.

"LeBron hit two big transition threes, his only two threes of the game," Phoenix coach Earl Watson said. "He's LeBron for a reason."

Irving scored 27 points and Love added 25 points for Cleveland, which beat Phoenix for the fourth straight time and earned a second straight win to open a six-game road trip. It's the fourth straight game each member of the trio has scored at least 20 points.

The Cavaliers (28-8) shot 54 percent from the field, and hit 15 of 34 3-pointers (44 percent) but had to regroup to chase off the pesky Suns to win for the 15th time in the last 18 games and post their best 36-game start since going 30-6 to start the 2008-09 season.

"We made enough plays down the stretch to get a win," said James, who combined with Irving for 14 of Cleveland's 20 turnovers (seven each). "We had a lot of turnovers, especially me a Kyrie as our primary ball handlers. The defensive pressure forced us to extend our offense a little more, but we figured it out."

Eric Bledsoe had 31 points and Devin Booker added 28 for the Suns (12-26), who missed a chance for their first three-game winning streak since Nov. 12-16, 2015 before a sellout crowd of 18,055 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

T.J. Warren had 15 points and Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 15 rebounds for Phoenix, who were down by 22 in the first half and 69-53 at halftime.

"They are the champions and you can feel that energy in the crowd that makes you want to play that much harder," Booker said. "We came in halftime and realized we had to be the aggressors. "We already felt disrespected with all the Cavs fans in the arena cheering them when they were announced ... we didn't want to go out the way we were playing."

Behind 77-57 with 10 minutes left in the third, Phoenix roared back with a 31-11 run in the third to tie the game at 88 on a Warren jumper with 50.5 seconds left. The Phoenix starters accounted for all 37 Suns points in the quarter, with Warren scoring 10 and Booker and Bledsoe nine each while Phoenix did not commit a turnover.

"We were getting turnovers, getting easy baskets and that helped us out a lot," Booker said. "If we played that way against every team, we'd win a lot more games."

James said the Cavaliers helped by getting out of sync offensively.

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Suns forward TJ Warren (12) guards Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

 "We had a little too much isolation," James said. "Especially when they made their run, we started playing one-on-one too much. We had turnovers and they got out and ran. It's a big part of our game, but we don't want to have too much of a steady diet."

Irving gave the Cavaliers a 93-90 lead after three quarter on a long 3-pointer just before the buzzer and followed his own 3-pointer with a driving lay up to give Cleveland a 104-98 cushion with 7:38 left.

The Suns led by five early thanks to 10 first-quarter points from Bledsoe, but Cleveland took off on a 17-2 run from there, beginning with an Irving 3-pointer and an immediate steal and layup by DeAndre Liggins. James capped the run with a fastbreak layup to give the Cavaliers a 34-21 lead with 2:53 left.

Channing Frye had 10 points off the bench in the second quarter and Love gave Cleveland their biggest lead at 62-40 on a five-foot hook with 4:35 left.

NOTES: New acquisition Kyle Korver came into Talking Stick Arena with Cavaliers GM David Griffin about two hours before the game. Coach Tyrann Lue said the Cavaliers' portion of the trade -- which would send Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams, a protected first-round pick and cash considerations to the Atlanta Hawks -- is complete. "It's in the league's hands right now," Lue said. Cleveland hopes Korver can practice with the team in Phoenix on Monday and make his debut Tuesday at the Utah Jazz. ... The Suns entered the game with eight of their 12 wins against the Eastern Conference (8-4), compared to 4-21 against the West. ... C Tyson Chandler had his seventh game with 18 or more rebounds this season, the most by a Suns player since Charles Barkley had seven in 1993-94. Chandler had a career-high 10 games with 18 or more rebounds in 2006-07. ... The Suns head to Mexico City this week for games against the Dallas Mavericks (Thursday) and San Antonio Spurs (Saturday).

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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