Shorthanded Cavaliers fall to Jazz 126-113
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - With several key players out due to injury and only nine players dressed in uniform on Monday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers had a daunting mountain to climb against the Western Conference contending Utah Jazz.
The Cavs were without starting point guard Darius Garland (groin strain), starting center Andre Drummond (calf strain), backup center Tristan Thompson (knee contusion) and at least two other players, Dante Exum and Alfonzo McKinnie, who have received significant minutes with the team this season. Thus, Cleveland head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was tasked with finding a new starting lineup and rotation on Monday against Utah.
Bickerstaff went with a starting lineup of second-year scorer Collin Sexton (moved over to point guard from shooting guard), rookie shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr. (inserted from the bench), Cedi Osman, backup power forward Larry Nance Jr. (inserted from the bench) and Kevin Love (moved to center from power forward). If that lineup wasn’t intriguing enough, that left the bench.
Against Utah, Cleveland’s bench consisted of local fan favorite Matthew Dellavedova, rookie two-way G-League players Matt Mooney and Dean Wade, and third-year center Ante Zizic, who has also spent plenty of minutes in the G-League.
“It’s tough,” Bickerstaff said about so many players being out of the lineup. “But it kind of is what it is at this point. Our guys, it gives them an opportunity to face a little bit of adversity and help build who we want to be.”
Outmanned against a superior Jazz team, the Cavs fell 126-113 in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The loss was Cleveland’s third straight after four wins in five games.
The Cavs were competitive in the first half, trailing 56-51 just before halftime. A Mike Conley three-pointer, however, set the score at 59-51 at the half; and when Utah opened the third quarter with a 14-7 run, the Jazz had taken their largest lead of the game to that point at 73-58. The Cavs closed the gap a bit to trail 94-82 heading into the fourth quarter, but the 12-point Jazz lead seemed insurmountable, considering the circumstances.
Cleveland trailed by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter, as Utah cruised to an easy win.
The Cavs only played seven bodies against Utah, as six of those seven players played more than 30 minutes. With several young players needing experience, high minute totals can never hurt.
“The goal of all of this stuff is to one day be in a playoff series,” Bickerstaff said. “So guys being able to play those large amount of minutes is what you end up with in the playoffs. So I think we’re working towards that.”
All five Cavaliers starters finished with double figures in scoring, led by Sexton’s 32 points and five rebounds. Love totaled 22 points and nine rebounds, while Porter Jr. finished with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists.
“With K.P., as much exposure and experience that we can get him, you’re always excited about the potential of it because we believe his ceiling is so high,” Bickerstaff said. “The challenge of playing against a guy like Donovan Mitchell, having to matchup with him. K.P. is working and prides himself in wanting to be a two-way player.”
The Jazz had six players reach double figures in scoring, led by Bojan Bogdanovic’s 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Rudy Gobert contributed 20 points and nine rebounds, while Donovan Mitchell pitched-in 19 points and nine rebounds.
The Cavs will look to snap their losing skid on Wednesday against another formidable opponent, the Boston Celtics.
POSTED 03/02/2020 22:21