CLEVELAND — Tyronn Lue is three games into his tenure as a head coach — and on his way to the All-Star Game.
An interesting week in Cleveland took another odd turn.
LeBron James scored 21 points before sitting out — and dancing — in the fourth quarter, Kevin Love added 21 points and 11 rebounds, and the 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 Lue, who took over last week when David Blatt was surprisingly fired halfway through his second season despite an NBA Finals appearance last season and an overall 83-40 record. The Cavs’ second win under Lue means he and the Cavs’ coaching staff will represent the Eastern Conference on Feb. 14 in Toronto.
Like everything else that has come his way, Lue took it in stride.
"It’s a tribute to coach Blatt and the players and the hard work the assistant coaches put in to get us to this point," Lue said. "I know my coaches are excited, and I know it’s going to be a surreal moment."
And while it’s clearly a unique situation, Love shrugged it off as nothing special.
"He’s won 66 per cent of his games so far, right?" Love joked. "I don’t think it’ll be his last time coaching the All-Star Game."
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.
"They’ve got three All-Stars on their team and they’re not just fringe All-Stars, they’re perennial All-Stars and at the top of the league in LeBron," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "You can’t make mistakes against a team like that."
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.
This is what Lue has in mind.
"I think guys getting a chance to get out and run, getting layups," he said. "J.R. Smith got a couple layups, dunks. LeBron got a couple dunks. I think that’s the way we want to play is fun, everybody gets involved."
During a timeout in the fourth quarter James laughed and danced near the huddle around Lue as Rick James’ "Super Freak" blared throughout Quicken Loans Arena.
After a turbulent few days, the Cavs had some fun.
Lue is keeping an eye on the Warriors, who have blown out the Cavs, Spurs and Bulls in the past week.
"Golden State has everything clicking on all cylinders," he said. "Hopefully, we can get a chance to catch up with those guys because they are far out in front of us right now, as far as playing basketball."
Phoenix again played without guard Brandon Knight, its second-leading scorer who has missed the last four games with a strained left groin. The Suns are already without Eric Bledsoe, who will miss the rest of the season after having knee surgery.
"The injuries have kind of put us under the ball," Hornacek said.
Suns: 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.
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. … Cleveland officially announced assistant coach Mike Longabardi has joined Lue’s staff. Longabardi previously worked with Lue under Doc Rivers in Boston.
Suns: At New York on Friday.
Cavaliers: At Detroit on Friday.