To start this one the Utah Jazz came out strong hitting threes but it was clear early on that the rim protection from Cleveland would be an issue. Starting Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley created a size advantage for Cleveland with Bojan Bogdanovic having to guard either Mobley or Allen at times. That rim protection showed up for Cleveland with a few blocks, but Donovan Mitchell was the answer. Mitchell went off for 15 points in the first quarter with 3 assists. He was so hot at one point that with 4:56 left he was 6/7 from the field and 3⁄4 from three.
With Hassan Whiteside out we also got the first taste of Rudy Gay at the center spot. Quin Snyder left it out there for all of a minute but that single minute was one of the most interesting of the game. Gay’s size was impressive and you could see the spacing it provided. We’ll see if it comes again but Snyder substituted Gobert back in pretty quickly. Was this a glimpse at the playoff rotation for the Jazz?
One of the big reasons the Cavs were in this game was the play of Darius Garland. His playmaking ability combined with his shooting are going to make Cleveland good for years. What a nice two-man core to build around!
The end of the game was a lesson in the dominance of both Rudy Gbert and Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell was scoring the ball for the Jazz on offense, making bucket after bucket to help the Jazz gain back the lead late. Rudy Gobert on the defensive end entered God mode. He was deflecting lobs, blocking shots, and had an absolutely ferocious dunk on the other end that got the Jazz bench off their feet. The Jazz needed every bit of it with this being a close one. The trio of Gobert, Mitchell, and Conley is proving to be just as potent this year as it was last year. It has the ability to go up against anybody and they showed it tonight when they went against a Cavs team playing two bigs.
For the Jazz, this is a big win that showed they can still do what they did last year with a flurry of scoring as well as play with some dynamic lineups with versatility. The Jazz can take a game like this and make some adjustments for the future. The thing they need to do is figure out how to slow down these big runs they’ve seen in the playoffs and tonight. In the second half, Utah gave up a 15-0 run to the Cavs that brought them back in the game. Was it the 3/14 shooting from Clarkson that was part of it? Was it the 17 turnovers? Was it the inability to score for long stretches with the bench? The answer is yes. Utah has to figure out the turnover issue but they also need to figure out the weaknesses on the roster and make some moves this trade deadline because you can see that this team has the core necessary to go deep in the playoffs.