CLEVELAND — Before the All-Star break, Larry Nance Jr. said the Cavaliers didn’t consider themselves a bottom-tier team.

Kevin Love agreed with that observation Wednesday, saying that’s because the Cavs have players who fight and believe they can win on any given night.

So while most fans were concerned about Thursday’s game against the Phoenix Suns at Quicken Loans Arena merely for the NBA Draft lottery implications, the Cavs were intent on making progress.

Plagued by injuries all season, the Cavs showed signs of starting to jell as a team in their first game since the break, dishing out 34 assists on 42 field goals and pulling away for a 111-98 victory. The assist total was one shy of tying their season high.

The Suns, a league-worst 11-49, lost their 16th in a row, setting a franchise record for consecutive defeats.

Cedi Osman led five Cavs in double figures with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists. Kevin Love recorded his first double-double since his Nov. 2 foot surgery with 16 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes despite sitting out the fourth quarter.

Jordan Clarkson added 15 points, four rebounds and five assists, Ante Zizic notched his third double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds, Larry Nance Jr. contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists and Matthew Dellavedova had 11 assists.

Devin Booker poured in 30 points with seven assists and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 23 points and four rebounds for the Suns.

Rusty to start the game, making just 1-of-7 shots, the Cavs (13-46) opened a 70-60 lead with 6:03 remaining in the third quarter.

At that point, Love already had his double-double; he checked out for the night at the 3:49 mark in the third quarter. Drew said before the game that Love, playing just his third game of the new year, would not play in the fourth quarter because of his minutes restriction.

The Suns had a run left, especially with Love on the bench, outscoring the Cavs 12-1 to take a 72-71 lead with a surge that included a 3-point bank shot by Jamal Crawford. But Clarkson canned a 3-pointer from the key and Marquese Chriss followed with a 3 from the corner to put the Cavs up 77-72 going into the final quarter.

That burst continued into the fourth, when two free throws by Dellavedova, a Nance slam off a David Nwaba feed and a Nwaba layup pushed the advantage to 83-72 with 10:48 to go. The Cavs stretched it to 12 at 93-81 on a Nance dunk off a Dellavedova assist.

But the best example of the Cavs’ teamwork came with 5:41 to play when Dellavedova hit a cutting Osman for a layup and a 98-86 lead.

Cavs rookie Collin Sexton headed to the locker room late in the first quarter with trainer Steve Spiro. Sexton was bleeding from the mouth, possibly after taking a forearm to the face on an offensive foul by Booker. Sexton re-entered the game at the 5:57 mark in the second quarter.

The Cavs were still without center Tristan Thompson, who missed his 14th consecutive game with left foot soreness. Thompson has missed a total of 24 games this season with the problem, originally called a sprain. Coach Larry Drew said Thompson did not bounce back as well as the Cavs hoped from Wednesday’s full-contact practice.

“We don’t need to rush it. We’ll sit him out tonight and I’ll see how he is day-to-day,” Drew said.

Before the game, Thompson told Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com he had a setback and was not going to press to return as he did after missing 10 games in December.

For most observers, this was another installment of the Tank Bowl, coined by ESPN’s “The Jump,” or the Zion Bowl, which seems more apt considering the pursuit of Duke freshman Zion Williamson, the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.

The three teams with the league’s worst record will have an equal 14 percent chance of winning the top spot in the lottery. The Suns (11-49) are followed by the New York Knicks (11-47), the Cavs (13-46) and Chicago Bulls (14-44).

The Suns seemed destined to finish last, even though they achieved the same dubious feat a year ago, when they went 21-61 and chose Arizona’s 7-foot-1 center Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 pick. Only two teams have finished last in the NBA in back-to-back years in the past 25 seasons.

The Cavs have 23 games remaining, including road trips to New York on Feb. 28 and Phoenix on April 1.

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.