Phoenix Suns vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Phoenix Suns (14-4 SU, 12-6 ATS) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-5 SU, 8-9 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, December 2, 2009, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio.
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Suns +7/Cavaliers -7
Over/Under: 214.5

The Phoenix Suns were playing terrific basketball over the past week and a half, having won four in a row, all by double digits. But possibly looking ahead to a powerhouse matchup in Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Wednesday, the Suns failed to get the job done against the New York Knicks on Tuesday, losing 126-99 to the Knicks and failing to score 100 points for the first time this season. In three of the four Suns losses this season, they have lost by at least 19 points.

In the blowout loss by the Suns to the Knicks, the Suns pretty much lost in every statistical category. The Knicks outrebounded the Suns, 50-40. The Suns turned the ball over 17 times and forced only 10 turnovers. The Knicks shot 49.5 percent from the field and were 14-for-31 from 3-point range, while the Suns shot 45.5 percent from the field and were only 4-for-17 from beyond the arc. Steve Nash had 20 points and eight assists, Amar’e Stoudemire had 14 points and five rebounds, and Alando Tucker scored 14 points off the bench. Channing Frye was disappointing with just five points and five rebounds, and Grant Hill had only eight points and four rebounds.

That performance was easily the worst of the season for the Suns. That did not represent how they have been playing for the most part this season. Their fast-paced offense has been tough to stop because of the rejuvenation of Nash and the outside shooting of Nash, Jason Richardson and Channing Frye. The three of them are all shooting better than 44 percent from beyond the arc. The three of them along with Jared Dudley, Grant Hill, Leandro Barbosa (out with an ankle injury) and Goran Dragic are all shooting better than 39 percent from 3-point land. It’s quite incredible how great of a shooting team the Suns have been this season. They have so many players that can hurt their opponents that it’s nearly impossible to defend them unless they just have a poor shooting night.

If any team can figure out a way to stop Nash and Stoudemire and the rest of the Suns, it’s the Cavaliers, one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. The Suns will have to figure out they are going to stop LeBron James, who is averaging 29.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game and is shooting 52.3 percent from the field. LeBron has plenty of capable teammates to pass to this season, especially with Shaquille O’Neal in the mix. Shaq misses a few games with an injury but he is back now. Shaq, Anderson Varejao, J.J. Hickson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas will give the Cavs a size advantage down low. The Cavs also have plenty of capable shooters in Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson, Jamario Moon and Delonte West.

The Cavaliers are 9-2 in their last 11 games and are coming off a 111-95 win over the Mavericks on Saturday. The Cavs are 11-0 this season when scoring at least 92 points. Against the Mavs, LeBron and Williams each scored 25 points. Williams had only one assist, but LeBron picked up the ball-handling slack with 12 assists and just one turnover. The Cavs outrebounded the Mavs 39-24, shot 57.7 percent from the field, and were 9-for-13 (69.2 percent) from beyond the arc. It may have been the best offensive game overall for the Cavs this season. Williams was 7-for-7 from 3-point range, and Varejao, Moon and West each scored in double digits off the bench. West had 10 assists and no turnovers in his first game in a couple weeks, so he and LeBron combined for 22 assists and one turnover.

The Suns are 8-4 ATS on the road this season. They are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games. The total has gone under in six of the Suns’ last eight games. The total has gone over in seven of Cleveland’s last 10 games. The Cavs are 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.

Ryno’s Pick: The trends point to the Suns as the wise choice here. But coming off a bad offensive night, it’s tough to fix those problems the next night against the strong defense of the Cavs. Cleveland will slow the game down and force the Suns to execute in the half-court. When Nash penetrates, Shaq, Varejao and LeBron will be there to stop him. If the Suns are on fire, there isn’t anything the Cavs can really do about it, but the Cavs have great defense and will figure out how to slow them down. The Cavs are undefeated this season when scoring at least 92 points, and based on the Suns defense it’s a safe bet that the Cavs will score more than that. Take the Cavaliers -7.