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Jazz play well but LeBron James controls the night

David Locke

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SUMMARY: The shorthanded Utah Jazz found an effective way to play and battled one of the hottest teams in the NBA for the whole 48, but LeBron James and the Cavaliers took control in the 4th, winning 109-100.

  • Playing without Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz found a way to battle the Cavaliers. They switched defensively and left the middle to be patrolled by Udoh. On offense, they broke down the Cavs defense in the paint and then kicking out to 3-point shooters.

 

  • The Jazz ran less pick-and-roll and less handoff action tonight, because without Favors or Gobert that is not as successful. Teams will just switch the pick-and-roll or hedge on the ball. The Jazz adjusted nicely to this and got the ball in the middle of the lane to Udoh and broke down the Cavaliers on the dribble to be able get the defense rotating and were able to find open 3-point shooters. The Jazz finished the night 17 of 34 on 3s — just one off the franchise record.

 

  • Ekpe Udoh played 33 minutes and was really good. He had 6 block shots and 3 steals. He is so long and so strong at his position. He does a nice job altering shots and holding down the middle. The Jazz were +1 when he was on the floor.

 

  • LeBron James had a great night. He had a 29-point triple-double on a night when he was only mildly dominant. The Jazz were switching on every pick and the Cavaliers were able to get Donovan switched onto LeBron a lot late and he made Donovan looks so small. It had to be an incredible experience for Donovan, who learns from everything.  It felt like LeBron monitored the scoreboard and played as he needed too.

 

  • Donovan was terrific again; He was a force down the stretch. He is averaging 26 points a game in December which is 10 more points than any other rookie in his class. He made more midrange shots tonight than he has been, but he continues to do a remarkable job of getting to the rim and make his looks from 3.

 

  • The coolest moment of the night was when LeBron got switched onto Donovan defensively and Donovan head faked Bron and beat him on a drive to the basket for a layup.

 

  • The Cavaliers bench got the Jazz tonight. Jeff Green and Cedi Osman went a combined 5 for 5 from 3 and that was really the difference. Green is not a good 3-point shooter and Osman is solid, but that combo goes 2 for 5 and it is a different game.

 

  • Playing the 5 is a really difficult assignment for Jonas Jerebko. He has not had a single practice all season at center. The defensive assignments are noticeably different if the Jazz are not switching every pick. When he plays the 4, they usually switch most plays but it is a little different at the 5.

 

  • Overall, this was a really solid night for the Jazz. They got off to a great start and then stayed in the game all night. LeBron took over the game to close the 3rd and give the Cavs a controllable lead. The Cavaliers have not lost all year when they held a lead going into the 4th.

 

  • The key to the night was the Jazz’s ability of to get 3 looks off of ball movement and drives rather than all picks and handoffs. This is how the Jazz will need to play while Gobert is out and gives them a good chance to beat anyone on the nights when the shots are falling.

David Locke enters his ninth year as the radio play-by-play voice of the Utah Jazz, having spent the majority of his career in radio in Salt Lake City and Seattle. In the summer of 2016, Locke created the Locked on Podcast Network which has podcast daily bite sized podcasts for every NBA and NFL team. A native of Palo Alto, Calif., Locke graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a degree in Political Science and Sociology. Locke and his wife have a son and a daughter.

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