Gortat, Morris each score 22 as Suns top Cavs

Gortat, Morris each score 22 as Suns top Cavs

Credit: AP

Phoenix Suns' Marcin Gortat, second from right, of Poland, loses control of the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers' Omri Casspi, left, of Israel, and Tristan Thompson, right, during the first quarter in an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 25, 2012, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

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by The Associated Press

azfamily.com

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 8:36 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 26 at 8:56 AM

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns made a statement early on against Cleveland.

The Suns, one of the NBA's hottest teams, scored the game's first 12 points and never trailed in rolling to a 108-83 victory over the Cavaliers on Sunday.

Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris scored 22 points apiece, while Steve Nash added 13 assists. Phoenix has won six of eight to get back into the Western Conference playoff race. The Suns improved to 11-4 since the All-Star break and are one game behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the West.

"This was, by far, the best ball movement we've had this year," said Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry. "We got off to a great start, but I thought we played well for the whole 48 minutes."

Gortat scored the game's first 10 points, including two dunks and three layups.

"It was cool," he said. "It's always fun when you're rolling like that. I could have had an easy 30 if I had executed better. My teammates found me, and I was happy I had some post-ups today."

Cleveland has lost six of seven, leading coach Byron Scott to a simple conclusion.

"We're not a very good team right now," he said. "That's the bottom line. It's like we were almost sleepwalking."

Rookie Kyrie Irving scored 16 points for Cleveland, which was never in the game after cutting the lead to 33-31 in the second quarter. Phoenix scored the next nine points to regain control and led 59-38 at halftime. The Cavaliers never got closer than 15 in the second half and the Suns' biggest lead was 106-78 in the closing minutes.

"We were setting good screens and, of course, having such a great point guard like Steve Nash makes us look better," Gortat said.

Gortat, who was 10 of 16 from the field, had his way with Cavaliers rookie center Tristan Thompson.

"He ate us alive," Scott said. "I don't know if Tristan didn't know that much about him or if he didn't realize that the guy is a pretty good player. Gortat has been playing well all season long."

Nash, who didn't play in the fourth quarter, finished with four points and made his only two shots from the field in 29 minutes. He didn't attempt a shot until hitting a layup with 31 seconds left in the second quarter.

Nash had eight assists in the first half, matching Cleveland's team total for the first two quarters. The 16-year veteran recorded his 31st double-figure assist game of the season and leads the league in that category. Nash matched his season high with 17 assists Friday against Milwaukee.

"He's so effective on the offensive end," Irving said. "At times he's a scorer and then he'll find the open man. He's one of the best for a reason and he's done it year after year."

Morris, who had a career high in points, shot 9 of 12. Brown added 16 points for the Suns, who shot 51.2 percent for the game.

Irving has averaged 21 points in two games against the Suns this season.

"He doesn't play like a rookie," Gentry said. "I heard he turned 20 years old (Friday). That's frightening because I have suits older than he is."

Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison, who sustained a bruised left leg and ankle in the first quarter, finished with a season-low two points. He was injured while battling Gortat for a rebound. The players fell to the floor, with Gortat landing on Jamison's leg. Jamison was on the floor for several minutes clutching his leg, but walked to the locker room on his own.

Jamison, Cleveland's second-leading scorer with an 18.4 average, returned in the second quarter. Jamison had his lowest point total since being held scoreless on Jan. 13, 2006 against Indiana while playing for Washington.

Omri Casspi scored 14 points for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers climbed back into the Eastern playoff race earlier this month with a three-game winning streak, including back-to-back road victories against Denver and Oklahoma City. Cleveland has struggled since then, with four of its six losses coming by double figures.

"We can't play the rest of the season with peaks and valleys," Irving said. "We beat really good teams by playing hard for 48 minutes. We haven't been doing that in the last few games."

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