Death, taxes, and the Utah Jazz beating LeBron James at home.
The Jazz are truly a different team at home. The Jazz played the Cavs close in the first half, put down the clamps defensively in the third, and held on to win in the fourth. What a fun, if unexpected, win. Also, Donovan Mitchell is for real, in case there were any doubters left.
In the first quarter, the Jazz stayed within striking distance, but just barely, trailing 32-22. Donovan Mitchell (29 pts, 4 rebs, 6 ast) scored seven points in the period to lead the men in blue, and he teamed up with Ricky Rubio to do this:
The Jazz looked a bit discombobulated, though, as most of their points came from isolation plays, while Cleveland moved the ball beautifully.
Utah kept pace to start the second quarter, playing the Cavs even up to the 8:34 mark. Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood led the charge, each drilling a three-pointer. The Cavs’ offense continued to cook, as LeBron and Dwayne Wade did this:
Peanut butter & jelly pic.twitter.com/O9IcN4spte— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) December 31, 2017
Shortly after that, Utah got hot. Donovan Mitchell continued to shine, dishing some nice assists to Derrick Favors and Thabo Sefolosha, playing tenacious defense, and getting to the line. By the 5:16 mark, the Jazz had cut the deficit to three, but Kevin Love responded with a corner three and followed that with a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 8. The Jazz battled back, though, pulling to within 1 with 2:15 left in the half. Both teams finished with a flurry of out-of-control turnovers, and by the time the dust settled the Cavs took a 5-point lead into the locker room at the half on a 17-foot, last-second fadeaway by LeBron.
LeBron hits the tough fade away jumper to beat the 1st half buzzer!@cavs 53 / @utahjazz 48 at halftime.— NBA (@NBA) December 31, 2017
LBJ: 20 PTS, 4 AST, 4 REB
Kevin Love: 13 PTS, 7 REB
Donovan Mitchell: 11 PTS, 3 AST#AllForOne pic.twitter.com/BiJaDOhxh8
The second half started differently, with the Jazz putting together a 10-3 run. Thabo Sefolosha shut down the King on defense, Joe Ingles did Joe Ingles things, and just like that it was a 21-3 run with the Jazz up 13.
The Cavaliers finally stopped the bleeding with six free throws, but they failed to hit a field goal until the 2:05 mark in the third quarter. The Jazz, for their part, sputtered late, but managed to take a seven-point lead into the fourth.
Cavs only shooting 29% from 3 tonight after that Wade 3. Big reason why Jazz are up.— Mark J. Wahlen (@Mark_Wahlen) December 31, 2017
Ricky Rubio opened the quarter by doing a bit of everything. It seems like every 5th game or so he has a good outing. LeBron came to play, and so did Donovan:
DONOVAN MITCHELL DOESN'T BOW BEFORE YOUR KING. pic.twitter.com/TGUGtZCOTj— SLC Dunk (@slcdunk) December 31, 2017
James, for his part, drove his 33 year-old body into the paint with abandon, scoring layups and drawing fouls.
Guess who won?
Not LeBron. Donovan Mitchell scored 11 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, Thabo Sefolosha continued to play lockdown defense on James, and the Jazz took it.
- LeBron James has been in the league for 15 years. There are a few guys still playing from his draft class, including two of his teammates, (Dwayne Wade and Kyle Korver) but none of those men are even close to being in the running for MVP. The man has played over 42,000 minutes, and he’s still the best in the game.
- Donovan Mitchell should be in the dunk contest. Full stop.
- Ricky Rubio was two assists away from a triple-double. (16 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists)
- Every Jazz starter had a positive +/-, and every bench player had +0 or below. The converse was true for the Cavaliers.
- This closes out a dreary December for the Jazz, who went 5-10 with wins over Cleveland, San Antonio, Boston, Washington, and New Orleans. Things may start to look up for them now that this ridiculous stretch is over.
- Next up: The Jazz have a break until January third, when the Pelicans boogie into Salt Lake City for a 7pm game, which will be followed by a four-game road trip.