Inquirer Daily News

Suns, Cavs clash in the desert

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Suns will try not to lose any more ground in their quest for a postseason spot and are set to host the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday at US Airways Center.

The Suns have lost two straight, three of four and six of their last nine contests, and are one game off a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Phoenix has allowed 100 or more points in each of the last nine games, including Monday's 112-105 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers. The Suns used a 19-4 run to pull within four points of the Clippers, who shot 55.1 percent for the game and were led by Blake Griffin's 37 points. L.A. led by as many as 25.

"You are not going to come back from 25 points and beat these guys (Clippers)," said Suns coach Jeff Hornacek. "We came out soft. We need to play the way we played in the third and fourth quarters all game. We hung in there. The guys battled. We just can't get in that hole."

Griffin and Suns forward P.J. Tucker got into a scuffle in the fourth quarter before both teams intervened. Tucker appeared to swing at Griffin while the two were tangled on the floor. He was suspended one game without pay for the incident and will not play Wednesday.

Tucker was one of seven players to score in double figures, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Goran Dragic led the way with 23 points and both Gerald Green and Markieff Morris added 16. Miles Plumlee (12), Marcus Morris (11) and Channing Frye (10) rounded out the double-digit performers.

Hornacek was still proud of the effort by his team.

"Our guys never quit. That's a great thing. But to get down by that many points, a comeback just isn't always going to happen. We played a little soft in the opening quarter. Our backs are to the wall now. We have to play tougher."

Dragic, meanwhile, has scored 20 or more points in his last three games and is averaging 24.1 ppg in his previous eight. Green has totaled 41 points in his last two games after pouring in 41 on March 6 against Oklahoma City.

Phoenix is 22-12 at home and has to improve on defense. It is allowing 103.0 ppg and averaging 105.5 points on offense. After hosting the Cavaliers, the Suns will visit Boston, Toronto and Brooklyn.

Cleveland is also in the hunt to make the postseason and sits four games behind in the less-than-stellar Eastern Conference. It will start a three-game road trip Wednesday against Phoenix, Golden State and the Clippers, and has a less than desirable 9-23 record on the road.

The Cavs are 4-2 in their last six games against Western teams.

The Cavaliers have lost four in a row and seven of the last nine games, including Saturday's 107-97 setback to the New York Knicks. All-Star Game MVP Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 30 points on 11-of-25 shooting to go with eight assists and eight rebounds, and Spencer Hawes chipped in 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Cleveland had an 80-77 lead at one point before the Knicks went on a 14-1 run to take control of the game and stay in the win column. The Cavs made 41.4 percent for the game and only 9-of-23 3-pointers.

"We're fighting for our lives," Cavs head coach Mike Brown said. "This team (New York) was a game behind us and I just feel like we didn't come out with the right mindset to compete with this team for the eighth spot."

Brown's Cavs lost, 99-90, to Phoenix at home on Jan. 26, as Markieff Morris had 27 points and 15 rebounds to lead the victors. Irving ended with 24 points and nine assists in that one for the Cavaliers, who have lost four straight and six of the past seven meetings in the series.

Cleveland has lost 11 of its last 14 trips to the desert.

03/12 10:04:37 ET