The Utah Jazz are learning how to the finish games.
Utah carries a two-game winning streak into a Tuesday clash with the host Cleveland Cavaliers. The Jazz are 3-2 on their seven-game road trip.
After enduring a second-half collapse against the New York Knicks on the trek, Utah reversed course against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.
The Jazz won 96-86 on the strength of suffocating defense. Utah made only 11 of 35 3-point attempts after sinking a franchise-record 25 in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. It didn’t matter much in the end. The Pistons shot only 33.3 percent from the field, and Utah outrebounded Detroit 63-39.
“I think this is a good place to start with a win like this, and how we won, because to start the year, we weren’t winning a game like this,” Donovan Mitchell said Sunday after scoring a team-high 28 points. “So I think this is a good way to get a win. We figured it out.”
Good defense allowed the Jazz to keep the Pistons at arm’s length after Detroit cut a 19-point deficit to six by the end of the third quarter. Utah held an opponent under 100 points for the first time this season.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder credited his team for showing mental toughness in gutting out a win amid poor shooting.
“We won a different way this game, and I like that,” Snyder said.
Cleveland is still trying to get back on track. The Cavaliers lost 101-91 to the visiting Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, their fourth defeat in the past five games, despite getting 19 points and 14 rebounds from Andre Drummond.
January has been tough for the Cavaliers following a promising start to the season. Cleveland has struggled on offense, failing to top 99 points in eight consecutive games after averaging 122.3 points during a 3-0 start to the season.
A rash of injuries has robbed the Cavaliers of key players who could give the offense a lift.
Dante Exum is out six to eight weeks after sustaining a calf strain. Kevin Love is out of action until at least February while dealing with his own calf injury. Darius Garland has missed five games with a shoulder sprain.
Collin Sexton was expected to return to action on Monday, but he was a late scratch from the lineup and missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle.
Having so few available players has forced the Cavaliers’ coaching staff to get creative with lineups and game-planning in general.
“It’s a flashback to the ’80s,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We try to slow the game down. We try to make it half-court. We’re calling sets and running plays that literally they ran into the early ’90s, late ’80s when they played with those bigs. It’s helpful for us. It’s been effective. As long as we got this group, we’re gonna keep scrapping and we’re gonna keep trying to make the game as ugly as possible.”
The Cavaliers signed Yogi Ferrell to a 10-day contract on a hardship exception to help fill the void. Ferrell had nine points in 17 minutes in his Cleveland debut on Monday.
–Field Level Media