Utah Jazz (21-36, 7-20 road) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (23-36, 14-15 home)
Tip Off @ 5:30 p.m. MST
Regular Season Series 2 of 2 (Cavaliers 1-0)
The Utah Jazz open their six game road stretch tonight when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both teams are coming off of big wins. The Jazz in their last game put a whooping on the Phoenix Suns, in a 109-86 blowout. Gordon Hayward attempted to break out of his slump and came away with a near triple-double, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists to lead the Jazz. The Cavaliers are coming off a win on the road over the Oklahoma City Thunder, 114-104. The Cavaliers used a huge fourth quarter to steal the victory, outscoring the Thunder 42-28.
The Jazz, who were on a three game losing streak, have broke out of that slump recently with a two game winning streak. In those two games, the Jazz are defending the outside shot. In the past two wins, opponents are shooting 29.4% from downtown. On the flip side, the Jazz are shooting the ball well from the outside, shooting 42.9% in those two victories. If the Jazz are looking to start off the road trip on the right foot, the outside shooting will be a big deciding factor.
Key Matchup: Derrick Favors vs Spencer Hawes
The Cavaliers were active in trade rumors all the way up until the deadline passed, but they did make a move that could possibly give opponents some trouble. When the Cavaliers traded for Spencer Hawes from the Philadelphia 76ers, it added a big man that can stretch the floor. Hawes can step outside and hit the outside shot. So far with the Cavaliers, Hawes in shooting 46% from the outside.
After the game against the Suns on Wednesday night, I made a statement that I am still sticking to, that Derrick Favors has been the MVP for the Jazz this season. The Jazz are 0-9 when Favors does not play. Not only is the record terrible, but the defense matches it. There is no defense when Favors doesn’t play. Another aspect of Favors’ game that has made a big difference, is that his offensive game has improved immensely over the last few seasons.
Hawes presents a difficult matchup for Favors, though. The Jazz have been so good on defense the last couple games because Favors is close to the basket not letting anyone come in for easy buckets. When playing the Cavaliers, Hawes will want to pull Favors away from the basket by sticking out close to the three point line. When he does this, the lane opens up for Kyrie Irving to get into the lane and to the basket. If Favors doesn’t come down to stop Irving, he gets to the basket. If Favors comes down, Irving kicks out to Hawes for the outside shot. It is a matchup that could possibly cause the Jazz some problems.
Since the trade deadline, the Cavaliers are 1-3 and the Jazz are 2-3. Both teams are coming off of a good win. Cleveland is currently in 10th in the East and is only four games out of the playoff picture. In the last ten games, the Cavaliers are 7-3.
Kyrie vs Trey Burke is an obvious matchup that will be huge in deciding which team comes out on top. Trey has played very well since the All-Star break, and he has gone up against some pretty good point guards in those games. Trey has faced Deron Williams, Damian Lillard, Ricky Rubio, and Rajon Rondo. Kyrie is another tough matchup for Trey.
This game is tough to predict because both teams are coming off big wins and both teams cause different problems that could swing the game in their favor. However, the reason the Jazz have won their last two games is because of the way they defended the outside shot. The problem with that tonight is Cleveland has a big man that can spread the floor and hurt the Jazz.
Cavaliers 105, Jazz 101