Keys to the Game
Five Keys: Cavaliers vs. Jazz
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
Key: All That Jazz
On Saturday night, the red-hot Cavaliers look to wrap up an unblemished four-game homestand when they welcome the road-weary Utah Jazz to The Q.
The Wine & Gold are coming off their 10th straight win at The Q and 16th win in their last 17th outings after dropping the feisty Lakers on Thursday night – taking their seventh straight vs. L.A., using late first-half push to get ahead and stay ahead of Luke Walton’s squad.
The Jazz have been all over the place this month – winning six straight before dropping the next four. On Friday night, they snapped that four-game skein – dropping the Celtics in Boston behind Ricky Rubio’s 22-point effort. But the victory was costly, with the Jazz losing Rudy Gobert to a knee injury and Derrick Favors getting stitches above his eye. Gobert likely won’t go on Saturday night while Favors is a possibility.
The Cavaliers would love to wrap up the homestand in style and take some momentum into Sunday’s showdown against John Wall and the Wizards in D.C.
Key: Straight to the Point
Saturday night’s battle at the point will be a matchup between two of Spain’s top imports – pitting Jose Calderon against Ricky Rubio.
After being glued to the bench for the first three weeks of the season, Calderon has been invaluable running the squad – upping his record to 12-2 as a starter on Thursday night vs. L.A.
The Cavaliers hadn’t needed much from Calderon offensively, but he’s provided that lift anyway – averaging 12.0 points on 65 percent shooting (17-for-26), including 67 percent from long-range (12-for-18) to go with 2.3 boards and 3.8 assists over his last four games. Over that stretch, he’s tallied exactly four turnovers – and hasn’t committed more than two miscues in any game this season.
Against the Lakers, Calderon followed up his previous season-high with a new best – finishing with 17 points, going 6-of-9 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from long-range to go with a season-high six assists, three boards and a pair of steals.
Ricky Rubio is having his best offensive season in his first year in Salt Lake City, averaging 12.2 points in 28 starts. Although he hasn’t posted double-digit assists since late October, th seventh-year guard still leads the Jazz at 4.9 apg.
Key: Aging Like Fine Wine
LeBron James will turn 33 in just over two weeks, but he looks as dynamic right now as he has at any point during his Hall of Fame career.
On Thursday night against the Lakers, James made more history – tying Larry Bird for 6th on the NBA’s all-time list, posting the 59th triple-double of his career. In the victory, James finished with 25 points, 12 boards, 12 assists, two steals and a pair of blocks.
During the Wine & Gold’s 10-game win streak at The Q, the King is averaging a triple-double – 29.6 points, 10.1 boards and 10.2 assists per. Don’t look for those numbers to dip on Saturday night.
In Cleveland’s five-game home win streak against the Jazz, LeBron has averaged an even 30.0 points per, shooting 61 percent from the floor to go with 8.4 rebounds and 7.8 assists per contest.
The King will primarily match up with Joe Ingles, who’s also having his best offensive season in Utah this year, averaging 10.6 ppg, notching double-figures in 20 of his 29 starts, including a 12-point effort in Friday night’s win in Boston.
Key: Bench Trial
On Thursday night, the Cavaliers improved to 7-0 when six or more players notch double-figures – with Kyle Korver and Dwyane Wade adding 10 points apiece off the bench. Cleveland’s bench combined for 32 points in the victory, just over eight points below their season average of 40.6 (good for 4th in the NBA).
The Wine & Gold’s second unit is on pace to have the highest scoring average in franchise history – currently ahead of the 1991-92 squad that averaged 36.9 ppg.
So far this season, the Cavs reserves have combined for at least 30 points on 24 occasions and have topped the 40-point mark 19 times.
Wade comes into tonight’s contest ranked 10th in bench scoring at 12.2 ppg – notching double-digits 15 times and topping the 20-point plateau three times. Jeff Green is averaging 10.6 ppg off the bench this season and has tallied double-figure scoring in four of his last six outings. And Korver has been the best late-game marksman in the NBA this season – scoring at least nine points in the final quarter six times this season – going off for 19 points twice – and has canned a league-best 35 triples in the fourth period this year, going 35-for-71, .493.
Key: Love Machine
One of the most improved players in the league last year, Rudy Gobert was primed for a breakout season in 2017-18, but knee issues have kept him out of the lineup in 11 games earlier this month and he’ll likely be on the shelf for a while after suffering a possible left MCL strain on Friday night in Boston.
Well-traveled big man, Ekpe Udoh, stepped in admirably – grabbing nine boards to go with five points in the win. But Gobert is one of the league’s true defensive stars and Utah will sorely miss his presence in the middle.
Kevin Love has done extremely well against some of the Association’s best big men so far this year, but he won’t mind missing out on a battle with Gobert.
In Thursday’s win, Cleveland’s four-time All-Star notched his 19th double-double of the season – leading everyone with 28 points on 9-for-15 shooting, including 4-of-6 from long-range, to go with 11 boards, three helpers and a pair of steals. Love has been especially good of late – tallying six double-doubles over his last eight games – averaging 23.8 points on 51 percent shooting, including 49 percent from beyond the arc, along with 11.6 boards over that stretch.
In 26 career contests against the Jazz, Love is right on schedule – averaging 16.7 points and 11.1 boards per.