PHOENIX: Kyrie Irving didn’t have any magic left in his tired legs, and the Cavaliers blew a 26-point lead to lose to the Phoenix Suns 107-105 on Friday. The comeback was the third-largest in Suns history.
Irving had a shot to win it at the buzzer, but his 3-pointer was short off the front of the rim. Irving had 17 points and eight assists, but he deferred through most of the fourth quarter to rookie Dion Waiters, who had a team-high 23 points and did his best to fend off the charging Suns.
Waiters scored 10 consecutive points during a two-minute stretch in the fourth quarter. Irving, still recovering from a recent bout of food poisoning, was forced back into the game sooner than coach Byron Scott typically inserts him. He played 37 minutes and spent most of the fourth quarter hunched over on his knees in the corner while Waiters initiated the offense.
The Cavs began the fourth clinging to an 83-76 lead, but turnovers on their first two possessions allowed the Suns to tie the score 83-83 two minutes into the quarter.
It’s amazing the game got to that point considering the start. The Cavs scored the game’s first 10 points, and Suns coach Alvin Gentry was forced to call two timeouts within the first four minutes as the Cavs raced out to an 18-2 lead.
The Cavs’ reserves were outscored by the Suns’ 47-26, and Daniel Gibson had 19 of those points as the Cavs continue to search for production from their reserves. Alonzo Gee had 15 points and seven rebounds, and Anderson Vaerjao had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Waiters was questionable to play with a bruised thigh, but the Cavs’ injured list thinned considerably. The only player still missing is Tyler Zeller, who remains in Cleveland with a concussion and fractured cheekbone.
Hours after the Los Angeles Lakers fired Mike Brown on Friday, Scott reiterated his love for the Cavaliers organization and made it clear he has no interest in leaving for the Lakers job. Good thing, too. He can’t. The Cavaliers have already picked up his option for next season and have no interest in letting him out of the contract. That’s fine, he’s not interested in leaving.
“I’ve made it perfectly clear that I am perfectly happy here in Cleveland,” he said. “Love what we’re building, love what we’re doing. This might be a good time to ask Dan [Gilbert] if I can get another four-year extension. With the young guys we have and the draft picks we have coming, I want four more years after my contract is up. Might be a good time to start politicking for that.”
In a stunning move of impatience, the Lakers fired Brown just five games into the season. Scott can certainly relate — he was fired just nine games into his final season with the New Orleans Hornets.
“As one of the 30 in this league, you always feel bad when one of your counterparts gets let go,” Scott said. “It’s a little surprising to me just five games into the season. I was told a long time ago, you get hired to get fired. That’s just the NBA and the life we’ve chosen.”
Luke Walton spent eight years with the Lakers and played for Brown last season before he was traded to the Cavs. He conceded he was shocked it happened after just five games and didn’t rule out Phil Jackson returning to the Lakers.
Walton was asked just a week or two ago about Jackson’s candidacy to return and said he didn’t think Jackson would ever coach again. Walton hedged that a bit on Friday.
“My gut still tells me no, I don’t think he will,” Walton said. “But if I had to put a percentage on it, I’d say it would be higher now than I thought a couple weeks ago.”
Another name getting kicked around is Jerry Sloan, whom C.J. Miles played for in Utah.
“He’s not adapting to anyone. They’d have to adapt to him,” Miles said. “He treats everyone the same, stars or not.”
Not so free
The Cavs entered Friday making just 61 percent of their free throws, the worst percentage in the league. As a result, post-practice sessions just got a lot longer.
Players now must make 100 free throws after practice before they’re allowed to leave. The old mark was 50, but Scott doubled it after all the problems at the line.
“It’s embarrassing for an NBA team to shoot 61 percent as a team,” Scott said. “We’re a pro team. There’s no way in the world we should be shooting 61 percent.”
Gee began Friday perfect from the line in 13 attempts, Varejao was shooting 86 percent and Irving was at 79. Everyone else is 55 percent or lower.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.