CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 21 points before sitting out – and dancing – in the fourth quarter, Kevin Love added 21 points and 11 rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers stormed away in the second half for a 115-93 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.
Sluggish for the first 24 minutes, the Cavs opened the second half with a 12-0 run and sent Phoenix to its 17th loss in 19 games.
Cleveland improved to 2-1 under new coach Tyronn Lue, who took over last week when David Blatt was fired halfway through his second season. The win means Lue and the Cavs’ coaching staff will represent the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game on Feb. 14 in Toronto.
Rookie Devin Booker paced the Suns with 16 points and P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris had 13 apiece.
J.R. Smith added 18 points as Cleveland, which led by 28 in the fourth, handed Phoenix its 12th straight loss on the road.
Lue wants the Cavs to play much faster than they did under Blatt, pushing the ball up the floor and running whenever possible to take advantage of their athleticism. It’s a work in progress – Lue said his players need to be in better shape – and Cleveland struggled trying to find any rhythm for much of the first half.
However, the Cavs, who only led 55-50 at the break, came out flying in the third and quickly pushed their lead to 17.
Love buried a pair of 3-pointers during Cleveland’s 12-0 spurt, which was highlighted by Smith taking a long outlet and bouncing a pass high off the backboard to a trailing James, who grabbed it with two hands and dunked to make it 62-50.
Moments later, James snagged an alley-oop pass from Smith and the Cavs eventually built their lead to 16 after three.
The rout was on, allowing Lue to rest James for the entire final quarter. During a late timeout, James laughed and danced near the huddle around Lue as “Super Freak” blared throughout Quicken Loans Arena.
After a rough few days, the Cavs had some fun again.
Suns: Coach Jeff Hornacek said F Jon Leuer (back spasms) could return Friday after missing five straight games. … Booker didn’t shy away from committing a hard foul on James in the first quarter, whacking the superstar across the face as he drove down the lane. The officials reviewed the play to determine if it was flagrant before ruling it a common foul. … Hornacek says it makes sense Lue wants the Cavs to play up-tempo. “When LeBron comes out there on the fast break, he’s so big and strong, he’s just going to blast through there and get an easy bucket or you have to foul him,” he said. “The more easy points you can create the better.”
Cavaliers: James needs 15 points to become the 17th player in league history with 26,000. He’ll be the sixth active player to reach the milestone, joining Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. … Lue intends to stick with Tristan Thompson as a starter over Timofey Mozgov, who started 30 games this season for Blatt. … Cleveland officially announced assistant coach Mike Longabardi has joined Lue’s staff. Longabardi previously worked with Lue under Doc Rivers in Boston.