Monday will be a first for Donovan Mitchell.
On Monday, when the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Utah Jazz, it will be the first time Mitchell plays his former team. This isn’t the same kind of environment and energy he’ll see when he plays in Utah for the first time, but it’s a first. And, on top of that, it’s Lauri Markkanen’s first game back in Cleveland. It would have been Collin Sexton’s too, but a hamstring injury has him on the sidelines.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (20-11) vs. Utah Jazz (17-15)
Where: Cleveland, Ohio — Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse
When: 7 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass
Spread (via DraftKings): Cavs -6
Opposing blog: SLC Dunk
Cavs expected starting lineup: Darius Garland / Donovan Mitchell / Isaac Okoro / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs’ injury report: Lamar Stevens (OUT - knee sprain), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - two-way), Mamadi Diakite (OUT - two-way), Dylan Windler (OUT - ankle), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL recovery), Dean Wade (OUT - shoulder)
Jazz expected starting lineup: Mike Conley / Jordan Clarkson / Lauri Markkanen / Kelly Olynyk / Jarred Vanderbilt
Jazz injury report: Kelly Olynyk (QUESTIONABLE - ankle sprain), Collin Sexton (OUT - hamstring), Johnny Juzang (OUT - two-way deal)
What to watch for
Lauri Markkanen is having a standout season. One of the surprises this season in the league is Markkanen ascension. It’s beyond his one year with the Cavs, were he established himself as a reliable off-ball shooter who held up well as a perimeter defender. With the Jazz, he’s ascended to career-highs across the board. Coming into Monday, he’s averaging 22.3 points per game while shooting 61.1% on two-pointers and 41.8% on three-pointers.
How the Cavs approaching guarding him (maybe Evan Mobley on him?) will be one of the most interesting parts of the night.
A test for the Cavs’ defense. Coming into Monday, Utah is third in offensive rating, per Cleaning The Glass. On top of that, they play at at a borderline top-10 pace, similar to teams like the Grizzlies and Pelicans. They are a step behind in pace behind a team like the Indiana Pacers, who just presented the Cavs with some real problems on Friday in large part due to their uptempo pace. Cleveland, meanwhile, plays at the leagues slowest pace. Let’s see how the Cavs handle tempo this time around.
Isaac Okoro, again starting? This feels like a game where Okoro could make an impact, assuming he starts with Lamar Stevens still out. He’s a good option to throw at Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson, the two guards Utah starts that fuels their offense, particularly if the Cavs are making an effort to slow down the Jazz’s pace.
He also has to try and make offensive plays as a starter. He played 26 minutes on Saturday — the most he’s played since Nov. 28 — and finished with 10 points on 5-11 shooting, including 0-4 from three. Misses aide, this is the kind of shot profile Okoro should have.
This feels like a stretch of play where Okoro can make a case for himself. Let’s see how he looks.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will tip off against the Utah Jazz at 7 p.m. All nationally televised NBA games can be watched on Sling TV.