Jan 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) shoots against the Phoenix Suns in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Game 65: Cleveland Cavaliers at Phoenix Suns

LAST TIME OUT

The Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the New York Knicks, 107-97. There was an added element due to the Zydrunas Ilgauskus jersey retirement ceremony, and unfortunately they could not secure a W. Kyrie had 30 points, eight boards and eight assists in the loss. The game was crucial for the Cavs to remain–God only knows how–in contention for the final playoff spot in the horrid East. The loss was their fourth consecutive. The game was littered with inconsistent basketball. It was tough to watch for some stretches. They definitely did not look like a team fit for the playoffs.

THIS TIME UP

The Opponent: Phoenix Suns

Record: 36-27

Tipoff: March 12th at 10:00 p.m. – US Airways Center, Phoenix, Az.

Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio

Where you can listen: WTAM 1100

Previous Meeting: January 26, 2014. Suns 99, Cavaliers 90.

Opponents Blog: Sun-n-Gun

Injury Report:

Suns: Eric Bledsoe (QUESTIONABLE- knee), Leandro Barbosa (OUT-hand), Emeka Okafor (OUT-neck)

Cavaliers: Anthony Bennett  (OUT-knee), C.J. Miles (QUESTIONABLE-ankle),  Carrick Felix (OUT-knee)

East Vs. West Playoff Race

This game features two teams who are in the playoff hunt in their respective conferences. This game will also highlight the startling difference between the caliber of basketball being played in each conference. The Wine & Gold are one of three teams in the East with a chance of earning the eight seed; however, The Suns are one of three teams competing for the Western Conferences eighth seed. It will be clear which team in the hunt is the better, more consistent basketball team. This game is a perfect representation of the gap between East and West. A victory tonight for Phoenix would tie them for the eighth spot. Their current record is good enough for the third seed in the East, except it’s not their conference. The gap between the teams will likely be on full display tonight.

A Real Talent Test

Looking at the next six games (including tonight) for the Wine & Gold truly scares me. All of them happen to be against playoff teams, including the defending champs. I guess the only beacon of hope is that half of them are at home. Tonight’s game will show a lot about the team. They cannot afford to take nights off down the stretch–something they are highly prone to do–if they intend to grab the final spot from the Hawks. Trust me, I know the players have looked at the schedule for the next two weeks. Tonight will tell me this: Are they afraid of the up-hill climb they face? Or are they ready for the challenge? Time will tell if the Cavaliers are 100 percent committed to playing consistent basketball and reaching the postseason.

Up and Down

Both the Suns and the Cavs are giving up north of 100 points per game this season, so expect this game to feature a lot of running up and down the floor. Much like in games between the Cavs and the 76ers this season, there will be plenty of fastbreak opportunities leading to possible easy buckets. The Suns lead the league in this category with 19.0 PPG. The key for the Cavs tonight is to beat them in this facet of the game. I don’t think the Cavs have the ability to slow them down, so they just need to beat Phoenix at their own game tonight to have a chance. Kyrie and Dion will need to create in open space for the Wine & Gold tonight to keep them in contention for the eighth spot.

Prediction

I don’t like the Cavaliers in this one. I think on the road, even though they had a few nights off, makes this one a lot more difficult. Phoenix will be going above and beyond tonight in order to secure them a playoff spot. And I think the Cavs will fall flat. I like Phoenix, 107, over Cleveland, 94, tonight.

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