A stellar third quarter from Kyrie Irving and foul trouble for Trey Burke helped the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 113-102 win over the Utah Jazz on Friday night in Salt Lake City.
Burke picked up his fourth personal foul with just under five minutes left in the third and the Cavs leading 66-62. Cleveland then went on a 19-8 run, including nine points from Irving, to take an 85-70 lead into the fourth.
By the time Burke re-entered the game with 9:34 left, the Cavs led by 17. The Jazz would get no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
Up until that point in the third, the contest had been close. Utah, missing usual starter Gordon Hayward due to a hip flexor injury, led by three at halftime on strong performances from Richard Jefferson, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks, starting in place of Hayward.
But Irving, who shot poorly in the first half, caught fire even before Burke's fourth foul, sealing the Jazz's fate.
Irving led all scorers with 25 points, adding eight assists, six rebounds and five steals. Jefferson had 18 and Burke contributed 17 with six assists, two rebounds and two steals.
- The Jazz shot fairly well for the game, including 9-20 on three-pointers. That floor spacing definitely helped Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter operate inside, and it will serve the team well going forward. The threat of Trey Burke as an outside shooter has helped balance the Jazz offense so much.
- Speaking of Kanter, the Big Turkey performed nicely on the offensive glass, tallying 15 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes. Most of this, however, was not against Anderson Varejao, a superb defensive rebounder. Still, it's nice to see Enes do the best with his opportunities, and 25 minutes is more in line with what I'd like to see him average.
- Don't look now, but over the last three games, Richard Jefferson is averaging almost 15 points on 46% shooting and is 8-16 from long range over that span. A modest proposal: Sell high.
- Trey Burke had an otherwise solid game, but Kyrie Irving was punking him in that third quarter even before he picked up his fourth foul. He's far from Irving's first victim, and far from the first young point guard who needs to learn to defend without fouling, but tonight was a good lesson.
- Except, I'm not entirely convinced Ty Corbin taught him that lesson the right way. I was speculating about this on Twitter during the game, and I'll rehash it here. There are two things you can do when you have a young player in foul trouble and you don't care much about winning: let him play through it and learn to defend without fouling, and if he fouls out, so be it. Or you can bench him, ostensibly to "save" him for down the stretch, and let him "think about what he did."
I'm honestly not sure which is more effective. Did it help Trey to ride the pine, watching helplessly while his team lost control? Does that motivate him more to not let that happen again? Or would it have been more beneficial to play with the fouls, since he'll have to learn how to do that someday anyway?
I dunno. But I do know that the Jazz lost the game in the third quarter, and the lead ballooned the moment Trey left the court.
(Then again, losses aren't so bad.)
- As a team, the Jazz got destroyed on the boards. No shame in letting Varejao get 14 rebounds -- it's his one elite skill, aside from setting moving screens -- but Derrick Favors, Marvin Williams and Enes Kanter shouldn't let Tristan Thompson pull down 15. Oh, and one more negative: free throws. 15-27. Ugh.