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Cleveland Cavaliers at Utah Jazz Game Preview

Game 67: Cavaliers (47-18) @ Jazz (31-35)
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
Time: 8:30 p.m. (MT)
TV: ESPN // ROOT Sports • Radio: 1280 AM // 97.5 FM

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz look to start this week off right by putting last week's unfinished business away. Utah started a back-to-back set last night against the Sacramento Kings, and won behind great play in the first quarter and solid defense down the stretch. They look to make it three wins a row tonight -- but in order to do that they'll have to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are always going to be trouble in the years where LeBron James is on their team. We know all about him, he had one of his first dominant performances of his NBA career against Utah when he hung 50 on our overly simple defensive schemes. He has scored a lot over the years against the Jazz, but that hasn't always led to wins. Especially recently. While I don't expect the Jazz to roll out the red carpet for him tonight, his life just got a little easier as the Jazz are holding Gordon Hayward out of this one, because of recently discovered plantar fasciitis. This is bad news for the Jazz, who are already down Dante Exum and Alec Burks.

Losing G-Time, the first Jazz 20 ppg guy since Deron Williams did it years ago, means the Cavs don't have to worry about him at all tonight. They do have to worry about the ambush though, because now the team is much less predictable with how they are going to score the ball. Tonight we're going to see the point guards handle the ball more than usual because there are so few wing players available. This means more post entry passes, passes off the pick and roll, and hopefully a few lobs. Rudy Gobert is always effective when you get him the ball above the rim. He's usually also the only guy who can catch the ball when thrown up there. I hope to see some of that tonight.

But if the Jazz are going to beat Cleveland tonight it's going to have to start on defense. Cleveland has scored 100 or more in seven straight games, hitting 120 in three of those seven. (None of them went to overtime.) Kevin Love and Channing Frye are stretching the defense, giving their wings more room to operate. Kyrie Irving is deadly. Always. It's not going to be easy for the Cavs to win in Utah. But it's also going to be very hard for the Jazz to beat Cleveland.


Key Bench:

Injuries / Absences:

I do hope we get to see some more scoring from Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto, and Trey Burke. It has to come from somewhere . . . or just get Derrick Favors the ball, and get out of the way. After all. This is a TV game, and for a lot of people, it's the only time they'll see this team play this year (until the playoffs). We want to show a good side of this team, and few sides are better than Favors.