The Jazz showed their fans and the rest of the NBA a sliver of their potential on Tuesday night when they took down the Cleveland Cavaliers, 100-92. LeBron James and the defending champions gave fans just about everything they could ask for in an NBA game.
It’s hard to imagine the Jazz didn’t have this one circled during their tough road trip. An energetic sellout crowd welcomed Utah home after a 2-3 stretch Back East. The Jazz matched Cleveland’s intensity early on. The first quarter went back and forth, with both teams hitting shots at opportune moments. The first quarter ended in a 29-29 tie. The Jazz starters were all locked in after one. Gordon Hayward finished with 10 first quarter points, Derrick Favors had eight and George Hill scored seven.
The Jazz took control in the second quarter. In fact, they looked to be running away with the game. The exclamation point in Utah’s run was a corner three from Rodney Hood that spun all the way around the rim before dropping in. More impressive than the shot itself was the behind the back pass from George Hill that assisted the bucket. At halftime it looked like the Jazz might be on the verge of a blowout win.
But… Anyone who has watched NBA basketball in the past decade knows that no lead is safe against LeBron James. The Jazz were no exception to this rule. Cleveland came out of the second half gate on an absolute roll. LeBron James himself was unconscious. At one point LBJ pulled up from beyond thirty feet and casually knocked down a three.
At that point Jazz fans had to be thinking that it was just another case of a super star getting hot and torching their team. However, this would not be the case in this game.
The Jazz answered Cleveland’s astounding run with a 16-0 stretch to put themselves comfortably ahead. Despite several attempts from the Cavs in the closing minutes, Utah kept them from ever regaining the lead.
Gordon Hayward had one of his biggest games of the season. He finished with 28 points and nine rebounds. He was clearly the leader on the floor for the Jazz on Tuesday. He stayed calm during Cleveland’s big third quarter run and even matched LeBron on several big shots.
Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood also hit their stride offensively in this game. After struggling to find a shooting rhythm for a few weeks, Rodney Hood knocked down four big three-point shots. Favors looked smooth on his low-post moves and his mid range jumper was falling.
The Jazz will have an opportunity now to pick up a couple of wins at home. They play Detroit on Friday and Orlando on Saturday. If Utah can protect home court they’ll be poised to make a run at the fourth seed in the West. It’s certainly still early in the season, but this is the time when teams either find their identity or fall apart. After everything the Jazz have gone through, Tuesday’s game showed that their trials have galvanized them as a unit. Be prepared for this team to make some noise in the coming weeks.
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