The Utah Jazz know firsthand how hard it has been for the Cleveland Cavaliers to endure their unfriendly road schedule. Cleveland has currently played the most away games so far, and Saturday will be the end of their second exhausting West Coach trip of the season. With 25 games under their belt away from Quicken Loans Arena, a young Wine and Gold squad has definitely been road tested. The Jazz, along with the Denver Nuggets, are in the same boat with only one less game played outside of the confines of EnergySolutions Arena. Here’s some information to get you ready for Saturday night’s contest:
Opponent’s Blog: Purple and Blues
Venue: EnergySolutions Arena – Salt Lake City, Utah
Tipoff: Saturday, January 19 at 9 p.m.
Betting Line: Jazz by -8.5
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio
Where you can listen: WTAM (1100 AM), WFUN (970 AM)
Time and time again throughout the 2012-13 season we have seen the Cavs get out to a blazing start in the first quarter, only to get outworked in the final three minutes of the first half. That loss of momentum at the end of the second quarter, combined with the growing pains of a young Cavalier squad, is enough to erase the largest of margins (26 points against the Phoenix Suns earlier this season) in the second act of the game. With Cleveland’s ability to get off to streaky starts (rank 13th in first quarter scoring) countered with Utah’s capability to play big in the second half should be enough to elicit, unfortunately, another typical outcome for the Wine and Gold.
The Jazz currently hold seventh place in the Western Conference after a big win Monday night against the Miami Heat. This could work in Cleveland’s favor, however. Not playing in four days could allow the Cavs to take advantage of a cold Utah team early on. This always could go the other way in terms of the Jazz being well rested and the Cavaliers being tired at the conclusion of their West Coast trip. Cleveland bigs Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller will have to control the duo of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap the same way that they contained J.J. Hickson and LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers from the onset on Wednesday. They led the team in scoring, with averages of 17.4 and 14.9 points respectively. After a well-rounded performance against Hickson, Zeller can’t risk getting into foul trouble early, thus sending Jefferson – who shoots 85 percent from the charity stripe – to the free throw line.
A familiar face in Mo Williams will not be present on the court on Saturday, as he is still nursing a right thumb injury. When Williams was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, the pick that Cleveland received in exchange for the current Jazz point guard ended up becoming Kyrie Irving. Instead of matching up against the former Cavalier, Irving will be hounding Jamaal Tinsley all night on both ends of the floor. After an enticing matchup with Damian Lillard the other night, it will be a change of pace for Irving, who could have his most impressive offensive effort of the season against the Jazz. While Zeller and Thompson will have their hands full all night, the green light will be on for Kyrie to takeover.
This is especially true because Dion Waiters may miss the game due to feeling under the weather. He’s a game-time decision and sat out during shoot around earlier on Saturday. That means that C.J. Miles will once again get the start at the two, and will also be returning to Utah for the first time since leaving the team in the summer. Miles has played on and off throughout this whole road trip, but he’s due for a finale of a performance. There would be no better way to do this than a Homecoming visit to his former stomping grounds. Miles is currently averaging 11.2 points, while shooting 38.3 percent from beyond the arc. It will be good to see the Cavaliers heading on their way back home, but bringing back a winning streak would be the cheery on top.