Irving’s late shooting leads Cavaliers past Suns 101-97

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love (0) smiles as he is helped up off the floor by teammates Kyrie Irving (2), J.R. Smith (5) and Tristan Thompson, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love (0) smiles as he is helped up off the floor by teammates Kyrie Irving (2), J.R. Smith (5) and Tristan Thompson, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX (AP) – Kyrie Irving sank a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with 21.9 seconds to play and the Cleveland Cavaliers held on to hand the Phoenix Suns their fifth loss in a row, 101-97 on Monday night.

Brandon Knight’s 3-pointer cut Cleveland’s lead to 96-95 with 1:27 to go and, after LeBron James missed a jumper, Knight hit another 3 but it was waved off because of an offensive foul against the Suns’ Tyson Chandler.

The Cavs almost turned it over on their next possession but got the ball to Irving, who made a jumper from beyond the top of the key.

In his fourth game since returning from knee surgery, Irving also hit a 12-foot floater to put Cleveland ahead 96-92 with 1:44 to go.

Irving scored 22 points, J.R. Smith had 17 and Kevin Love added 16 for the Cavs, who ended a two-game skid. James had 14 points, only two on 0-for-3 shooting in the fourth quarter.

T.J. Warren scored 23 and Knight had 18 for the Suns, who earlier in the day announced they had fired assistant coaches Mike Longabardi and Jerry Sichting.

Nate Bjorkgren was promoted to take Longabardi’s job as defensive coordinator. Assistant coach Earl Watson was promoted to a bench coach position.

Both teams were coming off their worst losses of the season. Cleveland was routed at Portland 105-76 Saturday night, the same night Phoenix lost an embarrassing one at home to Philadelphia 111-104.

The Cavs took the lead for good with 5 minutes remaining in the first half but never were up by more than 11.

Cleveland scored the last seven points of the third quarter to take an 81-73 lead entering the fourth. Irving scored five in the surge, including a driving layup high off the glass, Cleveland’s only field goal in the last 7:11 of the quarter.

The Suns were worse. They had one field goal in the last 8 minutes of the third.

The Cavs used a 13-1 run to erase a three-point Phoenix lead and go up 58-49 after Matthew Dellavedova’s 3-pointer with 2:04 left in the half. Jon Leuer’s 3 and a breakaway dunk by Devin Booker cut it to 58-54 before Love’s short hook shot made it 60-54 at the break.

MISSING MORRIS

The Suns were without forward Markieff Morris, who was serving the second of a two-game suspension for throwing a towel at coach Jeff Hornacek during a game against Denver last week.

REST UP

Irving will sit out Tuesday night’s game at Denver to rest as he works his way back from knee surgery. It will be the third time he will sit out the second of back-to-back games since his return Dec. 20. Irving said he expects that to be the final time he sits in the second of games on consecutive nights.

Cleveland doesn’t have another back-to-back situation until mid-January.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: James passed Alex English for 17th place on the NBA’s career scoring list and surpassed Stephon Marbury for 22nd in career assists. … Cleveland shot 62 percent in the first half, including 11 of 18 on 3s.

Suns: Eric Bledsoe is to undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a torn left meniscus. Hornacek speculated before the game that Bledsoe would be out six weeks. … Booker was 5 for 6 from the field. … The Suns took eight more shots than Cleveland did.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: At Denver on Tuesday night.

Suns: At San Antonio on Wednesday night.
(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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