Dribbles: Cavs Hum In Road Win Over Jazz, And That Was More Like It

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers‘ 129-113 road rout over the Utah Jazz in a game with NBA playoff implications on Tuesday. …Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA News

1. When was the last time the Cavs led a game wire-to-wire? That’s what I kept asking myself after the Cavs did exactly that in this one.

2. No, I didn’t look it up. So we officially go with “a while.” I know it’s happened this season. Just don’t ask me which game. I bet it was a while ago.

3. So this was a refreshing change for a team that needed a win — any win. Home, road, contender, or an injury-riddled and struggling team like Utah. Doesn’t matter. The Cavs made it look as if they were playing Collin Sexton, rookie Keyonte George and a bunch of G Leaguers.

4. Maybe because that was partially true.

5. The Cavs (46-30) also really needed to win a game without Donovan Mitchell, who skipped his return to Utah to rest his bothersome knee. But Mitchell was there on the bench, cheering on his teammates. They gave him a lot to cheer about.

6. Darius Garland ran the offense incredibly well in the first quarter, helping the Cavs to a 15-2 spurt. Garland only scored eight points, but he also passed for eight assists — and let there be no doubt, this was his best game in some time. He forced almost nothing and just let the game come to him.

7. Caris LeVert was fantastic starting in place of Mitchell and probably Isaac Okoro, who missed his second straight game with a toe injury. LeVert erupted for 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting, with seven rebounds and five assists. He made sure the Jazz stayed at bay anytime they tried to make a run in the first half.

8. Meanwhile, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley simply dominated the paint, each scoring 21. Allen grabbed 12 rebounds and Mobley had eight, though it felt like each had about 15. That’s just how much they controlled things underneath.

9. Lifelong Jazz fan and Utah State product Sam Merrill came off the bench to hit six 3-pointers to a smattering of applause, finishing with 18 points. Max Strus added 15 in another underrated showing.

10. Georges Niang came off the bench for eight points (as did Marcus Morris) — and it just occurred to me during the game that Niang is the lone member of the Cavs to appear in all 76 games this season. Dad bods for the win, baby.

11. There really isn’t much more to say about this game other than the Cavs needed a night like this. Man, did they ever.

12. Interestingly, the Cavs now sit firmly in third place in the NBA East. Or as “firmly” as things get these days. Both Milwaukee and New York lost — giving the Cavs a 1.5-game lead over both the Knicks and Orlando in the NBA East. Cleveland trails Milwaukee for second by 1.5 games.

13. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters: “Our energy level was high and that’s what we talked about with the guys — making sure a young team didn’t out-compete us and outwork us.”

14. Ohio State product and rookie forward Brice Sensabaugh led the Jazz (29-47) with 22 points. He’s looking good in his first NBA season. Sexton finished with 19. Lauri Markkanen hasn’t played in a while and is out for the rest of the season.

15. That’s it. Now it’s off to Phoenix to try to avenge a home loss to Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and the fairly stacked Suns. No easy task on the second night of a back-to-back. We’ll provide you with updates and Mitchell throughout the day ahead of the game. Thanks for following. You’re the bomb.com.

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