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Wrap-Up -- The Cavaliers’ recent roadie placed them in two cities where they’ve seriously struggled over the years, regardless of record – Portland and Utah.
Things have not changed.
The red-hot Jazz – riding a five-game win streak – made short work of the shorthanded Cavaliers, opening up a big early lead and barely looking back, holding on for the 115-99 win on Friday night in Salt Lake City.
Unfortunately, the final score was not indicative of the overall contest. The Jazz led by more than 30 points – and by as many as 38 – for much of the third quarter before Quin Snyder emptied his bench in the fourth. In that final period, Cleveland outscored the Jazz, 39-22, but it was a case of too little too late for the Cavs – who’ve now dropped 14 of their last 15.
Playing without injured big men Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance, the Cavs struggled against the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert – who finished with 19 points, 15 boards, two steals and a pair of blocks. He was one of three Jazz starters to finish with double-digit rebounds.
With Thompson and Nance on the shelf, Ante Zizic got the nod and doubled-up with 15 points and 10 boards, going 7-of-12 from the floor, adding a steal and blocked shot. The sophomore center did most of his work late, however, netting 12 of his points and six boards in the fourth quarter with Gobert on the bench.
Collin Sexton also finished with 15 points, but it wasn’t easy – going 4-of-12 from the floor, including 2-of-2 from long-range and 5-of-5 from the stripe, adding four boards and a pair of assists.
Sexton also had his hands full with Utah’s star guard, Donovan Mitchell, who’s been playing the point while Utah awaits the return of the injured Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum.
Mitchell, who led both teams with 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting, was also one of five Jazz players to net at least four assists. No Cavalier had more than three helpers as Utah outdid the Cavs in that category, 33-16.
The Cavaliers’ bench – which came into the contest averaging 53.5 points per through the first four games of the trip – was solid again on Friday night. Four reserves tallied double-figures and the collective tallied 55 points in the loss.
Cameron Payne registered double-figures in his fourth game as a Cavalier – leading the second unit with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting, adding four boards, three assists and a steal.
Jordan Clarkson followed up with 13 points, but struggled shooting the ball – going 4-of-13 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from long-range.
Jaron Blossomgame had another solid outing in limited minutes – finishing with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting to go with five boards.
Matthew Dellavedova closed out the Cavs in double-figure scoring, chipping in with 10 points and three assists.
Utah took full advantage of its superior size on Friday night – topping Cleveland on the boards (48-37), in the paint (60-44) and on second-chance scoring (11-4).
Sexton scores in double figures for the 39th time this season.
Turning Point -- The Wine & Gold were competitive for about a quarter-and-a-half on Friday night – not including the game’s final quarter, in which the game was already in hand for Utah.
The Cavs trailed by 10 with just under eight minutes to play in the second quarter when the flood gates began to open.
Donovan Mitchell got the Jazz going at that point with short floater to put the Jazz up a dozen and things got away from there – with Utah outscoring Cleveland, 23-9, over the next seven minutes, punctuated by Royce O’Neale’s triple with 1.8 to play in the half that sent his squad to the locker room with a 24-point edge.
By the Numbers – 11.8, 6.8, .605 … Ante Zizic’s scoring and rebounding averages as well as his shooting percentage through the first five games of the trip – even with a scoreless outing on Sunday night in L.A.
Quotable – Coach Larry Drew, on what went wrong for the Cavs in Utah …
”I thought a lot of our problems lied on the offensive end. Just our lack of ball movement, lack of body movement and against a pretty good defensive team with a big shot blocker that they have, you can’t just play one-on-one basketball.”
Up Next -- After a week-and-a-half deep in Western Conference waters, the Wine & Gold finally wrap up their roadie on Saturday night – taking on the Northwest-leading Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. The Cavaliers come home for an MLK Day matinee against the Bulls before getting right back on the road – traveling to face the Celtics on Wednesday night. Cleveland closes out the month of January with a Friday night meeting with Miami at The Q, travel to Chicago for a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Bulls and end up the following Tuesday with a visit from Bradley Beal and the Wizards.