The Cleveland Cavaliers were missing most of their firepower Tuesday night, but the Utah Jazz still expected a test from the league’s top-ranked defense.
“There are teams that have size on the interior, and certainly they have that, but they also have length on the perimeter,” head coach Quin Snyder said before tipoff. “That’s an opportunity for us to get out and run and try to get some open looks before their defense sets. We need to make sure we’re ready to take some 3s.”
How about 24 of them?
The Jazz flirted with a franchise record for made triples and had five players finish with double-digit scoring totals in an easy, 117-87, win over the Cavs.
“It felt good to see the ball go through the hoop,” said forward Georges Niang, who had 14 points off the bench. “But I’m even more ecstatic that we came out and closed out a team from start to finish, especially at the end of this long road trip.”
Donovan Mitchell finished with a game-high 27 points. Jordan Clarkson had 21 points off the bench. And forward Bojan Bogdanovic found his touch with a 20-point performance.
The Jazz improved to 7-4 on the year and an impressive 6-2 on the road with the victory.
The Jazz built a 22-18 in the first quarter, ending the period on an 11-4 run. Jordan Clarkson had five points in the quarter to lead Utah’s charge against his former squad. Big man JaVale McGee, starting in place of the injured Andre Drummond, led Cleveland with six points in the first.
The Jazz would eventually wear the shorthanded Cavs down.
Utah’s defense clamped down in the second. Cleveland missed 10 consecutive shots and went scoreless for nearly five minutes in the second quarter.
“Cleveland was shorthanded, but I did think our focus was really good defensively,” Snyder said.
Meanwhile, Clarkson’s 3-pointer early in the second quarter gave the Jazz a 30-20 lead — the first double-digit advantage of the night. The Jazz drained seven 3-pointers in the second quarter and took a 49-36 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Cleveland coach JB Bickerstaff was anxious to see how 19-year-old rookie forward Isaac Okoro matched up with Donovan Mitchell on the perimeter.
“These are the moments that you enjoy as a coach,” Bickerstaff said before the game. “We believe Isaac is a wonderful defender. He gets an opportunity to go up against one of the most dynamic guards in our league. It’s going to be a great test for him. He’ll get the opportunity to see what these guys look like firsthand and not just on SportsCenter.”
Mitchell welcomed Okoro to the NBA with a crossover and a step-back jumper to put the Jazz up 20 in the third quarter. Mitchell scored 17 of his 27 points in the third.
The Jazz continued to cruise from there. Second-year forward Miye Oni put the Jazz up 31 with a triple late in the third—one of the team’s 24 makes from beyond the arc on the night.
“I think we’re doing a really solid job,” Mitchell said of his team’s recent play. “There’s stuff we can definitely get better at, but there are things here we can look at and say this is who we are. The biggest thing is to continue to do it. We can’t be satisfied with this.”
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) January 13, 2021
Joe Ingles is feeling comfortable again.
And not just because the Utah Jazz’s Iron Man finally got a couple of nights off to rest his sore Achilles. (The veteran forward was held out of action again Tuesday night.)
A season ago, Ingles struggled more than he thought he would as he moved from the starting lineup to a bench role.
“Adjusting to it probably took me longer than what I wanted and what the team wanted,” he said. “But it is very different.”
The 33-year-old is having more fun this time around. Ingles is averaging 9.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists in nine games off the bench this year.
“My whole goal, at the end of the day, is to win the game,” Ingles said after shootaround Tuesday in Cleveland. “Whether that’s being heavily involved in the offense, standing in the corner, defensive rebounding — I’ll help out wherever I can, as boring as that answer is. I’m really enjoying it. I’m really happy and really confident in that role now.”
• Speaking of Ingles, the Aussie is wishing the best for his countryman and former teammate Danté Exum in his latest bout with injury.
Exum is expected to be sidelined for at least a month after suffering a calf strain last week. The guard was getting regular minutes in Cleveland before the injury.
“I still speak to him a fair bit,” Ingles said. “He was playing really well. He was starting and playing pretty heavy minutes and finding a nice role for himself. I was really happy for him prior to the injury. Hopefully he’ll get back soon.”
• Cleveland center Andre Drummond was a late scratch due to an Achilles injury. The Cavs’ star big man suffered the injury when he was kicked during a game on Monday night. The Cavs were also without Kevin Love, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton.
The Utah Jazz will unexpectedly end their road trip early. The league announced that Wednesday’s matchup with the Washington Wizards would be postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Because of ongoing contact tracing, the Wizards currently have fewer than eight players available. The Jazz now return home and await a Friday night contest with the Atlanta Hawks.