The Cavaliers are winning in the regular season, and honestly, it’s a bit jarring. After three years of sleepwalking through the NBA’s regular season before their customary switch flip in the playoffs, a team that’s won 16 out of their last 17 is a sight to behold.
The defense is still a problem, but LeBron-less lineups surviving allows the Cavaliers for much larger margin for error on nights LeBron isn’t fully engaged every second. It’s been a nice advantage for the Cavs, and they’ll look to continue their solid run against the Jazz.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (21-8) vs. Utah Jazz (14-15)
When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Enemy Blog: SLC Dunk
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Online: NBA League Pass, Fox Sports Go
Cavs injuries: Isaiah Thomas (OUT - hip), Derrick Rose (OUT - ankle), Iman Shumpert (OUT - left knee), Tristan Thompson (TBD - Calf)
Jazz injuries: Rudy Gobert (OUT - knee), Dante Exum (OUT - shoulder), Joe Johnson (OUT - wrist), Derrick Favors (TBD - eye)
Three keys to the game:
- The Jazz likely won’t have Rudy Gobert in this game, as he hurt his knee in Utah’s win against Boston. That doesn’t mean Utah will be easy pickins’ though. The team is actually outscoring opponents by 8.6 points per 100 possessions with Gobert off the floor and being outscored by 4.6 points per 100 possesions when he’s on the floor. Yikes. Those numbers are influenced by some terrible lineup combinations, but still.
- The Jazz should be tired, as they’re on the second half of a back-to-back after smashing Boston on the road on Friday night. The Cavs are relatively fresh by comparison. This is the first leg of a back to back for them, as they’ll fly out to Washington for Sunday’s matchup, but a four-game homestand does good for the body. The Cavs should be ready.
- Who will the Cavs throw on super-rookie Donovan Mitchell? My guess is that J.R. Smith gets the call, and he’s struggled with zippy guards this year. The Cavs will have to be ready and able to help, and sag off Ricky Rubio to help cut down penetration.
The Jazz should have a skeleton crew out there due to injuries across the roster. Kevin Love won’t have to contend with Gobert, and may not have to battle Derrick Favors either. It seems likely, then, that Love will face off with Ekpe Udoh, a solid player, but one against whom Love has a decided advantage. If the Cavs can pound Utah on the interior, they should win this game.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavaliers have too much going in their favor, and even their bad history against Utah can’t stop me from picking them to win this one. Cavs 114, Utah 106.