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Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James looks to feast on Gordon Hayward -less Utah Jazz


Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the Utah Jazz will host the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both teams played last night, with Cavs defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 114-90; and the Jazz took care of the Sacramento Kings 108-99. In both cases the games were close, then not very close, and ended comfortably for the road team. After beating the Kings the Jazz will attempt to beat the King, King James tonight. LeBron James is a tough cover because he's so strong, he has such athleticism and quickness, and it's coupled with an excellent ability to drive the ball. His shooting is hit or miss depending on the game, but he has a history of putting on a show in Utah. One thing is true, without Gordon Hayward (resting tonight to sooth his newly formed plantar fasciitis) this game is tougher. But another thing is true, while James is 15/24 against the Jazz, in Utah he's only 5/12.

In fact, LeBron has left Utah with a loss the last four times in a row, and in five of the last six tries. The most recent victory was December 8th, 2010. That was the rookie year for Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Trevor Booker. (And the draft class of Tibor Pleiss).

Are the Cavs going to win tonight? They are a really good team that has won three in a row, six of their last seven, and 12 of their last 16 games. They have been putting their foot to the pedal since the All-Star break and are serious about taking care of business. Tonight is their last game of a four game Western conference trip: a back-to-back set, two nights off, and another back-to-back set. Four games in six isn't as bad as four games in five night. But they are healthier. More motivated. And more talented.

Utah will be without Dante Exum and Alec Burks as well; in addition, Tibor is still assigned to the NBADL.Or as Matt Moore points out:

The Cavs are without only Mo Williams.

Utah has not been playing their best basketball, but I think they will be motivated to go out there in front of a National TV audience and give it their best. As for LeBron? In the 24 games against the Jazz the lowest he has scored is 13, and the highest was 51. Aside from that he has gone for 40 once, 30 twelve different times, and 20 points on eight other occasions. (Missing piece of info, he also scored 14 points once).

If you look at the games he has had against the Jazz it's clear that you just can't stop him with Matt Harpring trying to do his best in single coverage. It's going to be hard to cover him without Gordon either. Expect Chris Johnson to start tonight with Quin Snyder throwing everything left remaining at LeBron -- from Shelvin Mack and Rodney Hood to Joe Ingles and Trevor Booker.

It's not going to work very well, especially in the big picture of team vs. team (and not just Jazz vs. James). Cleveland is playing well and on a mission. Utah is still trying to figure out what they want this 2015-2016 season to be about.