Shaquille O'Neal was the scape goat in Phoenix. It was O'Neal that cramped the Suns style, O'Neal that kept Steve Nash from running and gunning, kept the Suns from making the playoffs in 2009. All that could be true, and the Suns hot start seems to be proof positive. Against O'Neal's new team, however, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Shaqtus scored just 3 points, but for the second time in 3 weeks, the Cavaliers pulled away from the Suns, winning big 109-91. It was similar to the 107-90 win the Cavaliers enjoyed at The Q in early December. It was the Cavaliers 2nd straight win in Phoenix - breaking the Suns' 19-game home winning streak.
I was pretty harsh on the Cavaliers last night after their lackluster effort in Dallas. Tonight is the reason. How can the Cavaliers look so bad, so disinterested one night only to come out on fire the next. It starts with LeBron James. James is the emotional leader, and when he brings it, the Cavs bring it. After scoring just 2 points in the 4th quarter last night, LeBron was ready right from the start.
James scored 10 points in the first 4 minutes, a variety of layups and power dunks that seemed to get him, and the team going. It was an example of LeBron at his best - using his penetration game to get his outside game going. Again, the team followed. LeBron led all scores with 29 points.
The Cavs didn't attempt a 3-point shot until midway through the 2nd quarter. They attacked the basket and kept the Suns on their toes. Phoenix doesn't want to play defense - they want you to hoise jumpers and get into a run-and-gun game. The Cavs weren't tempted tonight, thus won going away.
A tip of the cap to the Cavaliers perimeter defense. After allowing the Suns to shoot 3-6 from deep in the 1st quarter, the Suns managed only 1-13 the rest of the way. Steve Nash started the game with 8 points and 6 assists - but finished with just 4 more assists the final 3 quarters. In other words, the Cavaliers forced the Suns to play the way Cleveland wanted the game to go.
Delonte west was huge once again - 12 points/6 assists in 23 minutes - and once again proved that the Cavaliers most effective lineup has West at the point, with Mo Williams(24-6-5) playing off the ball. If West continues to improve, on and off the court, the Cavs could quickly regain their 66-win form.
A night after the 4-starters not named LeBron combined to score 29 points, Williams, Shaq, J.J. Hickson and Anthony Parker scored 44 points. The bench chipped in 36 points.
It was a solid win, and proved the Cavaliers really hate to lose. After playing very poorly last night, the Cavaliers responded and beat a very good team, who had been dominating on their home floor.