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Keys to the Game: Cavaliers at Jazz

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank


Head for the Mountains

The Cavaliers six-game West Coast roadie rolls on, with a tough challenge on the slate for Wednesday night – traveling to Utah to take on Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz.

The Wine & Gold improved to 2-1 on the current trip with a close Monday night win over the Kings. Cleveland began the six-gamer with a win over Portland on Friday and fell to an inspired Warriors squad welcoming back Klay Thompson on Sunday before holding on to beat Sacramento in a thriller.

Monday’s contest featured a wild ending – with the Cavaliers going on a 12-2 fourth-quarter run to take a double-digit lead with 2:32 to play only to see Sacramento score the game’s final nine points before De’Aaron Fox’s 16-footer at the buzzer drew iron. The Cavs will take it – earning their 23rd win of the season at the halfway point, surpassing last year’s win total in the process.

Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland each doubled-up for Cleveland and J.B. Bickerstaff’s bench combined for 40 points in the victory.

Allen led the Cavaliers with 18 points and both teams with 17 boards, going 8-of-14 from the floor along with a pair of blocks while Garland paced both teams with 11 assists to go with 12 points, five boards and a steal.

Evan Mobley was excellent on both ends in a career-high 42 minutes of work, finishing with 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting, adding seven boards and two blocks.

Lauri Markkanen chipped in with 15 points and Kevin Love (18 points) and Cedi Osman (15) and Rajon Rondo, (five points, six assists, four boards, two steals) were all big off the bench.

What will make tonight’s already-difficult meeting even more so is that the Jazz come into the game desperate for a win after dropping three straight for the first time all season – all three by double-figures – including a Monday night loss in Detroit to wrap up a five-game trip.

Rookie Cade Cunningham and sophomore Saddiq Bey each went off for 29 points for the Pistons, who overcame a 22-point deficit to earn the upset. Overall, the Jazz – still without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert – surrendered at least 120 points in each of the last three losses on their recent junket.

The Wine & Gold wrap up the trip with a back-to-back this weekend – traveling to face the Spurs in San Antonio on Friday followed by a Saturday matchup with the Thunder in OKC. The Cavs welcome the Nets to town for an MLK Day meeting when they return.


History

Utah has topped the Cavaliers in seven straight overall and six straight in Salt Lake City. But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Wine & Gold got thumped by an average of 34.5 points in the two meetings against the Jazz last year and lost by a single point back on December 5 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Quin Snyder’s squad drilled 30 three-pointers in that December contest, but the Cavs still nearly overcame a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to make it interesting.

Overall, Utah leads the head-to-head series, 74-46, with the Jazz holding a dominant edge, 47-13, on their home floor.

The all-time single-game assists leader in the series for the Jazz is John Stockton, who handed out 22 helpers in a Cavaliers overtime win in 1989. Mark Price led all scorers with 27 points while Larry Nance and Oregon gubernatorial candidate Christ Dudley doubled-up for Cleveland.

The all-time assist leader for the Cavs in the series is John Bagley, who finished with 18 in a loss at the Coliseum back in 1985. Mel Turpin led Cleveland with 26 points.


Connections

In terms of coaching connections, Cavs assistant Antonio Lang was with the Jazz for five seasons – from 2014-19 – while current head coach J.B. Bickerstaff coached Mike Conley with Memphis for three seasons in 2016-19. On Quin Snyder’s bench sits Alex Jensen, who – as the Charge’s head coach – led Canton to two playoff appearances and one division title.

On the playing floor, there’s Jordan Clarkson – the league’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year. The 8th-year man from Mizzou played in 138 games with the Wine & Gold, including the 2018 Finals squad, before being dealt to the Jazz just before Christmas in 2019.

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