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Clarkson outduels Mitchell late as Jazz beat Cavs

Jordan Clarkson did the heavy lifting late as the Jazz took down the Cavs in Donovan Mitchell’s first game back to Utah

Cleveland Cavaliers v Utah Jazz
Jordan Clarkson did the heavy lifting late as the Jazz took down the Cavs in Donovan Mitchell’s first game back to Utah
Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

What a special night in Salt Lake City.

The Jazz fanbase welcomed back Donovan Mitchell in his first return visit since the big trade this past offseason. He was met with wide support and appreciation. While certainly not every word or deed from Donovan was supported by every fan, he deserved adoration akin to the joy he brought us for five seasons.

But at soon as the game tipped off, it was all business—and Mitchell gave the Jazz plenty of it, scoring 25 in the first half on only 12 shots while also contributing 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal.

That was about all the Cavs could muster in the first half as the Jazz held most every other opponent to meager scoring while Utah bolstered a balanced attack: Lauri with 10 points, Jordan with 8, Mike with 9, and Nickeil with 8.

The second half is where most of the action and buzz was concentrated in this game. The Jazz built a 13 point lead midway through the 3rd quarter, led by the night’s hero, Jordan Clarkson, with 7 points, 3 boards, and an assist to open the quarter. But fans hadn’t seen anything yet.

That lead was quickly squashed by Donovan midway through the 4th quarter. In true Mitchell fashion, he had the entire bag going for him: step-back threes, slices to the hoop, killer cross-overs.

It seemed the Jazz were doomed for a loss—down 5 points, 1:36 left in the game, Cleveland ball. ESPN estimated the win probability for the Cavs to be 89.1%. But JC happened.

Like match to a flame, JC burst out with an and-1 three point shot, which when reviewed for a flagrant granted the Jazz the ball after the free throw, to which Clarkson drew yet another foul on a three point shot. 7 points in like 8 seconds.

From then on the Jazz made the right plays, hit their free throws, and Cleveland went cold. Utah ended with the win 116-114.

Clarkson was undoubtedly MVP of the game but various others contributed to the success:

  1. Lauri Markkanen had one of his worst shooting games but still ended up with 25 points on 18 shots. His efficiency floor is so valuable.
  2. Rudy Gay found his shot and additional ways to contribute tonight, boasting one of his most well-rounded games in a while.
  3. Walker Kessler held his own as the lone big with Olynyk sidelined and matched up with a premier, up-and-coming big in Evan Mobley.
Cleveland Cavaliers v Utah Jazz
Lauri Markkanen navigates the rim and defender Evan Mobley while looking to score at the rim
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Let’s look at the 4-factor advantage stats to get a feel for the game as a whole:

eFG% advantage: -2.8
TOV% advantage: -11.2
OREB% advantage: +20.5
FTArate advantage: +12.3

The Jazz won this game on volume, pure and simple. The Jazz continue to be loose with the ball and lack the initiative to force turnovers but the frequency of offensive rebounding and getting to the line saved the game.

This win puts the Jazz at 21-23. They find themselves 1.5 games out of the West’s 6th seed and 1.5 games out of a top 7 draft pick. Looking ahead, the Jazz have two days off in Utah before hosting the Orlando Magic and likely rookie of the year Paolo Banchero.