Donovan Mitchell, Jazz desperate to break a skid against the Cavs

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January 10, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, United States; Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) dribbles defended by Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) in the second half at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There are nights when teams don’t play their best basketball but do well.

Take the Cleveland Cavaliers. They made plenty of mistakes against the Sacramento Kings on Monday, including allowing 20 runs on 17 turnovers and not scoring in the final 2 1/2 minutes, but still escaped with a 109-108 victory.

There are other nights when teams don’t play their best basketball and get away with it, not even against teams with bad records.

This scenario describes the recent fate of the Utah Jazz, who host the Cavs on Wednesday in Salt Lake City after completing a five-game road trip with an embarrassing 126-116 loss to the Detroit Pistons.

En route to their third straight loss, the Jazz lost a 22-point lead and allowed the lower-ranked offensive team to score 78 points on 59.1% shots in the second half. Detroit hasn’t beaten Utah since Jan. 25, 2016. None of that Pistons’ team is on the roster.

All-Star Donovan Mitchell has made no secret of his frustrations.

“You can’t get up 20 points or something and lose. You just can’t, ”Mitchell said Tuesday. “We’re kidding ourselves if we say we’re going to win a championship and have a night like tonight, the last two nights really. At some point, we just have to do it. You just have to go out and do it. We have to communicate. We must support each other.

Utah ended their long road trip with disturbing results, losing 122-108 to Toronto and 125-113 to Indiana. That’s an average of 124.3 points allowed in those three setbacks.

The Jazz defense struggled with Rudy Gobert, the NBA’s three-time defensive player of the year, in the league’s health and safety protocol. Once among the league’s top five defenses, they slipped to just 13th in the NBA on Tuesday in points against per game (107.5).

“When you don’t have the Defensive Player of the Year on the pitch, you won’t be as good,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “But we’re still good enough to do a lot better than what we did in the second half of the game. There is no reason why we should play as badly as we did.

Aside from Gobert, the Jazz also missed key reserves Rudy Gay and Joe Ingles, four assistant coaches and a few other guys at the end of the bench due to COVID-19. It’s unclear if either of them will return in time to play Cleveland. The Jazz won’t play again until Sunday in Denver, so that extra time should help.

Despite themselves, the Cavaliers still held their ground for a one-point victory. Getting double-doubles from Jarret Allen and Darius Garland as well as 15 or more points from four other players made up for their other shortcomings.

“It’s a win so we’re going to take it, but it wasn’t our best,” Cleveland coach JB Bickerstaff said on Monday. “We’re talking about playing with determination and discipline for 48 minutes. We didn’t do that tonight. We cannot put ourselves in those kinds of positions. We have to improve because it will cost us dearly if we don’t. “

Utah edged Cleveland 109-108 in their first meeting this season. This is the fourth in a six-game road trip for the Cavs, who have won two of three so far.

–Field level media

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