Emotions were definitely running high on Monday night in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse — and not in a bad way.
With the Jazz and Cavaliers meeting for the first time since their monumental trade on Sept. 1, the game featured Donovan Mitchell playing his former team while Lauri Markkanen returned to the town he played for last season.
Despite an impressive showing from Markkanen, Mitchell got the best of his former team as Utah fell 122-99 to Cleveland on Monday night.
"Credit to the Cavs. … They kicked our ass," head coach Will Hardy said. "I thought our team approached the second half the right way. I thought, for the most part, we continued to compete. … We just never seemed to catch any type of rhythm on the offensive end."
"It's different when you're playing against your friends, guys you've been in the locker room with and battled with," Mitchell said postgame. "I've got a lot of respect for everybody in that locker room."
Markkanen found success against his former team, dropping 24 points, six rebounds, and two steals. He was effective from beyond the arc (3-for-6) while also showing off his ability to get to the rim and draw the foul (7-of-10 from the free throw line).
He continues to impress with his ability to move at 7 feet tall, using his long frame to get his shot off wherever he wants. He also showcased his athleticism, grabbing the rebound on one end and finishing at the rim on the other.
While it may have been forgotten by many, Clarkson is also a former Cavalier after suiting up for them for 2.5 seasons from 2017-2019.
After a slow start, he caught fire in the second half and finished with 23 points and two rebounds.
It may have been less than two minutes in, but the Jazz took their lone lead of the game following a Clarkson three-pointer. However, Mitchell was on fire for the Cavs, dropping eight of their first 10 points.
After cutting the deficit to two following another Clarkson bucket, Cleveland broke the game open with a 10-4 run to end the quarter. Utah trailed 29-21 after one.
The second quarter belonged the Cleveland, although Markkanen did everything he could to keep the Jazz in the game. He scored 15 of Utah's 23 points in the quarter, but the defense struggled to contain Cleveland at the point of attack.
The Jazz trailed 62-44 at the break.
Whatever was said by Hardy at the half, it worked early as the Jazz came out firing on both ends of the court. The defense was aggressive and rebounded well, while the offense moved the ball and found success.
Clarkson kickstarted Utah's 8-0 run with a deep three, which was followed by a bucket from Mike Conley and an and-one by Jarred Vanderbilt. However, Cleveland responded with an 8-1 run, and the Jazz never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
Trailing by 19 entering the fourth, Hardy pulled his starters midway through. The takeaway from the final 12 minutes was that Clarkson and Conley found a rhythm on offense, a good sign moving forward for the veteran backcourt.
"The good news is that these games only count as one.," Hardy said. "It's never as bad as it feels. … It's our job to strip away the emotion, try to learn from this game because we play again tomorrow.
Walker Kessler finished with 11 points, six rebounds, and two blocks in his third start of the season, while Conley added seven points and nine assists.
Utah continues its reunion road trip when they face former Jazzman Bojan Bogdanovic and the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night — tipoff is set for 5 p.m. MT.