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The Roundup—Jazz 104, Cavs 101
Tense. Scrappy. Emotional. Dramatic.
Saturday's game had it all as the Jazz erased a double-digit deficit and then held off Cleveland's furious fourth-quarter rally to come away with a 104-101 victory Saturday night in front of a raucous crowd at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The Cavs have now lost four straight games in Utah, with their last win coming on January 10, 2014. Superstar LeBron James—as a member of both the Cavs and Heat—has now lost seven straight times in Salt Lake City.
Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz (16-21) with 29 points, while Ricky Rubio stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
"I thought Ricky was terrific," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the game. "Ricky was the guy who got us going. You could feel his intensity and his activity on the defensive end—he just fought all the time. And he was aggressive on the offensive end."
Derrick Favors finished with 19 points, six rebounds and three steals, while Thabo Sefolosha, who started for the second straight game, had 10 points and 12 rebounds—and supplied nearly 32 minutes of tenacoius defense against James.
James, who turned 33 on Saturday, finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists (and six turnovers) for the Cavaliers (24-12). Jeff Green came off the bench to score 22 points, and Kevin Love double-doubled with 20 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
Utah's starting backcourt was the key to Saturday's win. Rubio controlled the game and barely missed a triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, one steal and one block), while Mitchell put on a show from tipoff until the final horn. The rookie started things off with one of the best dunks you'll see (off an alley-oop from Rubio), and he proceeded to knock down an off-balance corner three, cross over Dwyane Wade en route to a driving layup, swat away a dunk attempt by Wade, throw down two more hellacious dunks, and consistently slash into the lane for acrobatic layups—including one in the final minute that all but sealed Utah's victory. Mitchell finished with 29 points, four rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block in 39 minutes.
The Jazz trailed by 12 early in the second quarter before a 9-0 run got them back in the game. Mitchell made two free throws and dished assists to Favors (for a dunk) and Sefolosha (for a baseline jumper). Favors capped the run with another layup to pull Utah within three and force a Cleveland timeout with 5:20 left in the first half.
The Jazz trailed by five at halftime but opened the third quarter on a 23-3 run. Favors made two buckets and then Mitchell hit nothing but net on a three from the top of the key. Ingles blew past Love for a three-point play. Favors threw down an alley-oop dunk (from Ingles), Mitchell and Ingles got into the lane for back-to-back layups, and then Ingles brought the house down with a three from the wing—right after Favors rejected a point-blank layup attempt by Jae Crowder. Mitchell then grabbed a steal and dished it to Sefolosha for a layup while James, who was visibly upset by Cleveland's lackluster play, was slow to get back on defense. James did not record a point or an assist during the third quarter.
Cleveland, though, chipped away at Utah's lead, cutting the deficit to one with 3:38 left in the game. Mitchell responded with a driving layup. After a layup by Wade, Favors threw down a dunk while being fouled—and then hit the free throw to give Utah a 96-92 lead with 2:53 left. Love made two free throws, but Mitchell answered with two of his own. Love then canned a three to cut Utah's lead to one. Mitchell and Wade missed 3-point attempts before Mitchell sliced through the defense for a driving layup to give Utah a 100-97 lead with just 35.4 seconds left. James drove to the rim but missed two layup attempts, and Sefolosha came down with the rebound and proceeded to hit two free throws with 24.3 seconds remaining. After a layup by James, Favors sank two free throws with 9.0 seconds left to clinch the victory.
Utah's guard trio of Rubio (16 points), Mitchell (29 points) and Rodney Hood (12 points) outscored Cleveland's guards 57-15. Wade scored nine points, while J.R. Smith added six points and Jose Calderon missed his only shot attempt en route to a scoreless night. Hood didn't have his most efficient game (4-for-13 shooting) but he did make four 3-pointers, including two big ones midway through the second half.
The Jazz were superb from the line, shooting 18-for-21 (86.0 percent) as a team. They were especially good late in the game, shooting 11-for-13 in the fourth quarter. Mitchell, Sefolosha and Favors combined to shoot 6-for-6 in the final two minutes. Utah entered the night ranked No. 3 in the NBA in free-throw percentage (.805).
Utah grabbed 12 steals—Mitchell, Favors and Sefolosha had three each, while Ingles had two—and only turned the ball over 11 times.
Coach's Quote of the Night
"There's a confidence [Donovan] has, and I think his confidence is bolstered by his teammates' confidence in him."
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
Rubio was honored on the court just before tipoff with November's NBA Cares Community Assist Award. ... Sefolosha and James picked up double technical fouls midway through the third quarter after James stepped out of bounds and refused to give the ball back to the referee. ... The Jazz outscored the Cavs 52-38 in the paint. ... Utah dished out 24 assists. ... Rudy Gobert (knee) missed his eighth straight game. He's making progress toward a return and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. ... Isaiah Thomas (hip) has not played for the Cavs this season but is expected to return to the court soon. ... Utah finished its December schedule—ranked as the single most difficult month any team in the NBA will play this season—with a 5-10 record.
The Jazz will stay at home to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7:00pm MT.