The Cleveland Cavaliers went into Salt Lake City to face the Utah Jazz at an even bigger disadvantage than they’ve had most of the season. Missing their top three big men in Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, and Larry Nance Jr., the Cavs were lacking size in a major way. This led to matchups like Ante Zizic starting against Rudy Gobert and Cedi Osman having to guard Derrick Favors. That’s to say nothing of having to deal with an explosive scorer in Donovan Mitchell and excellent shooters such as Joe Ingles and Kyle Korver.
As expected, the Jazz went right to their size advantage, as Gobert and Favors scored at the basket early on. Given their size disadvantage it wouldn’t been in the Cavaliers’ best interests to play fast. They did not. Several careless turnovers by the Jazz kept them from scoring, and the score was tied at four over three and a half minutes into the game. Alec Burks was aggressive on both ends of the floor early on, scoring a pair of buckets and getting a steal that led to Ante Zizic splitting a pair at the line. Unlike Burks, Rodney Hood seemed started the game off cold, missing a pair of jumpers that both seemed to have too much on them. The Jazz’s cold start didn’t last long, as Mitchell and Korver each drove to the basket for easy layups. The world also nearly turned inside out as Matthew Dellavedova scored in the paint against Gobert. The Cavs actually did a nice job of contesting Utah’s jumpers, but the Jazz were able to get what they wanted around the basket. The Jazz started to hit from outside as the quarter drew to a close, as triples by Ingles, Jae Crowder, and Korver gave them a 29-20 lead after one.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 19, 2019
The Jazz picked up where they left off as Grayson Allen knocked down a triple. With Gobert on the bench, Favors took his turn abusing the Cavaliers inside as Channing Frye and Jaron Blossomgame simply didn’t have the strength to guard him. Dellavedova kept the Cavaliers in the game with seven early points off the bench. The Cavaliers struggled from the floor as both Hood and Dellavedova missed jumpers, and combined for an ugly turnover that led to a Jazz basket. Meanwhile, the Jazz attacked the basket as if not one was there to defend it (most of the time, that was true). Larry Drew called time less than three minutes into the second quarter to try to explain to his team that they were allowed to play defense.
It was Utah who amped up the defense out of the timeout as they went to a zone defense. Even with Gobert on the bench, the Cavs struggled to attack the basket while the Jazz lived in the paint. When Korver hit his second layup of the night to put the Jazz up 16, Drew once again called time, possibly to make sure that all of his players were alive and not slow-moving brainless zombies (apparently he did tell the team to have some pride and not allow uncontested Kyle Korver layups). The team apparently didn’t get the message as Mitchell went on his own 5-0 run to put the Jazz up by 20. Jordan Clarkson was a big contributor to the Cavs’ offensive woes as he started the game just 1-of-8 from the field. At this point, every Cavalier with the possible exceptions of Cedi and Burks seemed to be stuck in the mud as a series of turnovers by the Cavs helped the Jazz take a 61-37 lead at the half.
The third quarter belonged to Mitchell, Gobert, and Royce O’ Neale. The three men combined to outscored the Cavaliers 16-9 over the first six minutes of the quarter. After an and-one by Jae Crowder pushed the Jazz’s lead to 80-46 the only question left in this one was if and when the Jazz would take a 40 point lead. While the Jazz were able to push the lead to as many as 38, they couldn’t quite get over the hump and led by just 33 at the end of the quarter with a score of 93-60 (sorry, I can’t help myself). At this point, the Cavs were shooting just 29.9% from the field and 15% from three.
This game hurts my eyes.
— Mike Schreiner (@Mike_CTBIPL) January 19, 2019
The Cavaliers had some nice moments in garbage time as a lineup of Dellavedova, Cameron Payne, Blossomgame, Clarkson and Zizic actually played hard together. Some of this may have been due to Utah taking its foot off the pedal a bit. The Jazz also may have been shocked to see the Cavs run out a lineup that actually tried to attack the basket. Sexton also had a couple of buckets in the fourth to finish with 15 points. The Cavaliers outscored the Jazz 39-22 in the fourth quarter, but still lost by a final score of 115-99.
While the score didn’t seem that bad in the end, we’ll never be able to un-see the second and third quarters of this game. The Cavaliers are back in action tomorrow night against the Denver Nuggets. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.