PHOENIX – The Suns were fighting much more than their worst losing streak in four seasons and the perception that their postseason chances are nearly extinct: They can’t win on TNT.
The games televised by TNT are significant because they have been against top teams. On Thursday night at US Airways Center, their struggles continued with a 119-111 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Eastern Conference’s top team.
The Suns’ losing streak was extended to six, and they fell to 0-9 in games televised by TNT.
“We try hard and play hard, but we just can’t seem to close out games,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said.
The Suns were 30-3 when leading after three quarters. They led 93-89 entering the fourth quarter Thursday, but the lead vanished thanks to the Cavaliers’ top-ranked defense.
After shooting 57.4 percent in the first three quarters, the Suns were limited to seven points in the first seven minutes of the fourth, a span that included five turnovers and a momentum-turning play when Jason Richardson tried a 360-degree dunk in the open court and didn’t get a foul call on LeBron James’ block attempt.
Despite Grant Hill’s best efforts, James posted his third consecutive triple-double, with 34 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.
The Cavaliers had not won at US Airways Center since 1999.
Cavaliers point guard Mo Williams had 30 points, and reserve Sasha Pavlovic added 16.
Phoenix fell six games behind the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings. The Suns have 17 games left, and the losing streak is their longest since the 2004-05 season.
The Suns are 12-23 this season against teams that are .500 or better and dropped to 19-13 at home after averaging a home record of 31-10 in the previous four seasons.
Matt Barnes led Phoenix with 21 points, while Steve Nash extended his career-best streak of 20-point games to seven with an even 20.
Lakers 102, Spurs 95: At San Antonio, Kobe Bryant scored the last of his 23 points on a 3-pointer with 1:46 left, and the Lakers became the first Western Conference team to secure a postseason spot.
The Spurs have been the West’s No. 2 team most of the season, and Los Angeles validated that pecking order.
The Lakers also wrapped up the Pacific Division in the final rematch this season of the 2008 Western Conference finals.
The Associated Press