The Cleveland Cavaliers have it good right now. At 6-1, the Cavs are right at the top of the East seven games in despite having no Kyrie Irving and no Iman Shumpert all season. The Cavs could still get better - and they probably will - but life is good for the Cavs.
The Utah Jazz, though, are a team that could muddle things up for the Cavs. Cleveland has been starting games extremely slow so far this season and with a stifling defense, the Jazz aren't a team the Cavs want to fall behind early against.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Utah Jazz
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland Ohio
Enemy Blog: SLC Dunk
Music: Ohio by the Black Keys
The Jazz are currently second in the league in net rating - one spot ahead of the Cavs. The Jazz (probably) aren't the league's second best team and they'll probably regress in some ways over the course of the season. But this is a game where the Cavs are going to get pushed differently than they have in recent memory.
Out of the Cavs' last few opponents - the 76ers twice, the Pacers and Knicks - the Jazz are unquestionably the best team of the bunch. And despite being young - Utah has third youngest team in the league with an average age of 24.6, the same average age as the Blazers - the Jazz handle rough nights well. Case in point: Last week against the Nuggets, Utah was outplayed in the first quarter, but came back and won by double digits.
Remember that Rudy Gobert is awesome. Gobert's strong play isn't new. He was elite over the last part of last season and he's been pretty good to start this year too. He hasn't been as good on offense, but he's third in the league in rebounding and still protecting the glass with no regard for human life. This is a player who when someone dunks on him, it becomes a blog post.
How the Cavs handle Gobert should be interesting. Timofey Mozgov will start out matched up against Gobert, but he hasn't quite been as good this season, probably due to knee surgery he's still recovering from. The best, or at least the most interesting course of action, would be to go with Tristan Thompson at center and see how Thompson can handle Gobert on the boards.
Offensively, it'll be important for the Cavs to not start settling for jumpers if Gobert makes life hard early. A good shooting night for the Cavs - particularly from three - would help, but it might not be totally essential. And remember: Utah has the best defensive rating in the league by a full two points.
This is the Cavs' last game at home for a little more than a week. It's not something that's particularly important, but after the Jazz game, the Cavs play the Knicks, Bucks, and Pistons on the road. The good news about the Cavs' schedule is that there aren't any back to backs on the mini-road swing out of the three opponents, only the Pistons are really grooving at this point in time. Getting a win before the road trip, though, wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
Utah is a feisty team and one that may be a playoff team in the West. With the Cavs not yet at full strength and their tendency to start slow so far, this feels like a game Cleveland might lose or win very closely. Cavs 96, Utah 93.
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