PHOENIX (AP) — LeBron James scored 33 points in his return from a two-week layoff but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Cleveland Cavaliers from going down to their sixth straight loss, 107-100 to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
Markieff Morris scored a career-high 35 points on 15-of-21 shooting for the Suns, who outscored the Cavs 11-3 over the last 3:31.
The Cavaliers rallied from a 19-point, third-quarter deficit to go ahead in the fourth, the first of eight lead changes down the stretch.
J.R. Smith, who joined the Cavaliers during James’ absence, scored 29, going 8 of 14 on 3-pointers.
James, who took the time off to rest his sore left foot and lower back, made 11 of 18 shots, 6 of 8 in the second half.
The Cavaliers were 1-7 in James’ absence and have lost nine of 10 overall to fall below .500 at 19-20.
The Suns, opening an eight-game homestand, have won 11 of 15.
Kyrie Irving, who averages 21 points, scored nine of 4-of-14 shooting for the Cavs.
Cleveland was down 80-61 with 3:26 to play in the third quarter, then finished the period with an 18-5 flourish.
In the final seconds of the quarter, James made a thunderous dunk, then Smith stole the ball in backcourt and sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the Suns’ lead to 85-79 entering the fourth.
The Cavaliers took their first lead since the opening minutes when Tristan Thompson dunked off a pass from James to make it 90-88 with 7:31 to play.
James gave Cleveland its last lead, 97-96, with a driving layup 3:52 from the finish. The Suns made nine of 11 free throws from there, the last four by P.J. Tucker in the final 18.1 seconds. Phoenix’s lone field goal in the final run was Alex Len’s tip-in.
James had not played since Dec. 28 to rest his injuries.
He practiced for the first time since then on Monday, then flew to Texas to cheer on Ohio State in the national college football championship game. He said he got back at 12:30 a.m.
The Cavaliers survived a big scare in the first half.
With 9:12 left in the second quarter, James took an elbow to the head from Tucker and fell to the floor. He stayed there for a moment, surrounded by all his teammates, before slowly getting up. He stayed in the game, though. Later, Morris’ hand slammed into James’ face on a layup try.
James’ first basket was a powerful reverse dunk from the baseline, then he ended the half with an equally impressive stuff, but the Suns led 59-51 at the break.
Cavaliers: Kevin Love was on the bench throughout Cleveland’s big rally and didn’t play in the fourth quarter. … Irving had two in the first half on 1-for-4 shooting. .. The Cavs are 1-8 overall without James this season, 18-12 with him.
Suns: The Suns’ eight-game homestand is the longest in franchise history. … Morris’ previous high was 30 at Boston on Nov. 17. … Goran Dragic and Morris were a combined 14-of-21 shooting in first half.
Cavaliers: Visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
Suns: Host Minnesota on Friday.
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