The Cleveland Cavaliers are back at home for a rare afternoon game against the Utah Jazz. The Cavs have been blowing the doors off their opponents during their four-game winning streak, but the Jazz—owners of the NBA’s second-best net rating and fourth-best record—represent the Cavs’ biggest challenge since they last lost to the Phoenix Suns.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Utah Jazz
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse — Cleveland, Ohio
When: 3:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass, Bally Sports App
Spread: Cavs +5
Opposing blog: SLC Dunk
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Lauri Markkanen / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs injury report: Collin Sexton (OUT - meniscus), Dean Wade (OUT - calf), Cedi Osman (QUESTIONABLE - back), Dylan Windler (QUESTIONABLE - back)
Expected Jazz starting lineup: Mike Conley Jr. / Donovan Mitchell / Bojan Bogdanovic / Royce O’Neale / Rudy Gobert
Jazz injury report: Udoka Azubuike (OUT - ankle), Malik Fitts (OUT - two-way), Elijah Hughes (OUT - on assignment), Hassan Whiteside (QUESTIONABLE - glute)
Three things to watch
Jarrett Allen vs. the Stifle Tower. It’s been a big year for Jarrett Allen, and lately, it’s only been getting bigger: Allen is averaging just over 23 points, 12.5 blocks and nearly 2 blocks per game on 74 percent from the field over his last six games. Today, Allen finds himself up against the NBA’s foremost frontcourt deterrent in Rudy Gobert. It’s an interesting individual matchup, to be sure, but Gobert is such a dominant defender and rebounder that he can practically lock entire teams out of the paint by himself. Allen may not pile up numbers like he has been lately, but if he can hold his own against Gobert, he could make just as big an impact for the rest of the team.
Defending The (three-point) Land. The Cavs have been winning games with defense all season, and these last four have been no different: they’ve held their last four opponents to just under 94 points per game, with the Washington Wizards being the only team to crack 100. They also haven’t allowed a team to shoot over 40 percent from three against them since the Toronto Raptors on November 5. The Jazz, meanwhile, run the most efficient offense in the NBA and just drilled 27 threes in to beat the Boston Celtics on Friday. Here’s hoping the Jazz left their rhythm in Utah.
Garbage time or tired legs? The Cavs have been kind enough lately to get the winning out of the way early. They’ve outscored their last three opponents by a combined 73 points in quarters one through three, and their smallest lead entering the fourth in that span was 22. Their fourth-quarter differential? Minus-eight. With Cedi Osman and Dean Wade out, J.B. Bickerstaff has shortened the rotation to eight and put heavy burn on his starters in particular. Sure, this is probably at least partly a function of having 36 minutes of garbage time. But if the Cavs can’t create separation early, it’s worth monitoring how they perform deeper into the game.