CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 5: Jarrett Allen #31 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket during the game against the Utah Jazz on December 5, 2021 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Defensive Stand Gives Utah The Win Over Cleveland

Despite 35 points from Donovan Mitchell, the defense from Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley helped the Jazz extend its winning streak to four games following Sunday's 109-108 victory over the Cavaliers

All Utah needed was one more stop.

After playing a slew of close games throughout the season, the Jazz had struggled to get stops in heartbreaking losses to Memphis and New Orleans two weeks ago.

So when they found themselves in that same situation again, needing one stop to reserve the win, Utah knew what to do.

Great defense by Mike Conley forced a contested three-point attempt by Cleveland's Darius Garland, and Utah escaped with a hard-fought 109-108 victory on Sunday afternoon.

"The last possession, I knew it was going to come to him (Garland)," Conley said postgame. "I knew there was going to be some sort of slip and him getting downhill to his right. We played it right and got him to turn his back. When he gave up the ball, I knew he was going to come back and get it, so I was just trying to chase him and apply pressure as much as possible."

The Cavaliers often play at least two players 6-foot-10 or taller simultaneously, and sometimes as many as three of them on the court at once. So when it was announced pregame that the Jazz were going to be without 7-foot backup center Hassan Whiteside, it was going to take a complete team effort to get the road win.

That's precisely what happened.

Donovan Mitchell provided the offense with 35 points, six assists, and three rebounds. He shot 12-of-21 from the floor and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc, but it was his playmaking ability that allowed the Jazz to flourish.

With Mitchell dictating the offense, Rudy Gobert was just as impressive on the defensive end of the court.

Gobert finished with just six points but grabbed 20 rebounds, dished out three assists, and blocked five shots. His 20 rebounds were two less than Cleveland's starting centers Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley had combined.

"He was dominant. … He's such a presence defensively," Utah head coach Quin Snyder said of Gobert. "There were a few times where he went up strong, and I'd like to see him get to the line more. He's finishing with a lot of explosiveness right now. … He had that one finish where he dunked it over the top of somebody."

But the numbers don't even begin to do justice just how dominant and disruptive he was on defense.

His ability to defend both players in the pick-and-roll and not allow Cleveland to feast in the paint was tremendous. Gobert was then able to defend on the perimeter while still protecting the rim, including a massive block of Garland with 48 seconds left to preserve the lead.

Despite being significantly undersized as a team, the Jazz held Cleveland to 45.7% (42-for-92) shooting from the floor.

"I thought we did a good job," Snyder said of Utah playing small. "We haven't played small, so to speak with Rudy Gay, and Royce [O'Neale], and Bojan [Bogdanovic] across the front line, I thought particularly in the first half that group had some rhythm."

But the game's biggest defensive play didn't come from Gobert — it came from Conley on the final possession.

Leading by one with 17 seconds left, Conley defended Garland, who had 31 points up to that point. But through numerous screens, crossovers and hesitations, Conley stayed glued to Garland's hip and forced the contested three-pointer. Gobert helped clean up after the miss by thwarting two Cleveland putback attempts.

"I think that's what great teams are able to do at the end of the game," Gobert said. "You're locked in even more, your physicality goes up, communication should go up, and if you need to get a rebound, go get it."

The first quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with each team exchanging the lead multiple times. Mitchell got off to a hot start with 15 points in the opening quarter, helping the Jazz take a 32-29 lead.

Utah extended that lead to seven before Cleveland went on a 15-4 run to take a four-point lead late in the second quarter. However, the Jazz responded as Bogdanovic knocked down back-to-back three-pointers before O'Neale added one of his own for a quick 9-0 run.

The Jazz led 60-55 at the half.

Utah started the fourth quarter with back-to-back three-pointers to take a 15-point lead, its largest of the game.

But the Cavaliers weren't done yet. Cleveland responded with a 15-0 run to tie the game at 97 with 8:43 to play.

Following a Garland bucket that gave Cleveland the lead with 3:10 to play, Conley calmly drilled a contested three-pointer the following possession as the Jazz regained the lead. Then Gobert had maybe the offensive play of the game when, after securing an offensive rebound, spun on Allen and threw it down left-handed for the three-point advantage.

Conley finished with 11 points, six assists, and four steals, while O'Neale and Bogdanovic combined for 28 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.

Rudy Gay finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles combined for 14 points off the bench.

The game was also a special for Mitchell and Gay, both of whom hit career milestones.

Utah continues its east coast road trip when it faces Minnesota on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. MST.

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