Jazz Face Lowly Cavaliers In First Game Of Critical Four Game Road Trip
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After snapping a four-game losing streaking by beating the Washington Wizards Friday night in Salt Lake City, the Utah Jazz will look to string together a series of wins on the road beginning with the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday at Quicken Loans Arena. The Jazz will face the Cavaliers in the first game of a critical four-game Eastern Conference road trip.
The Jazz enter the road trip with a record of 37-22, including 16 wins in 29 road appearances. The team currently sits in the fifth seed in the Western Conference, one half-game ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference standings. The Cavaliers own the league’s second-worst record at 17-43 trailing only the Golden State Warriors int he lottery standings.
Cleveland continues its rebuild in the post-Lebron James era, having won just 38 total games in the two seasons since the Akron native moved west to Los Angeles. Despite two top 10 draft picks, the Cavaliers have yet to find a true franchise piece around whom to build around, though recent play from rookies Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. has been intriguing.
In his last seven games, Garland, the fourth pick in last summers NBA draft is averaging 13 points and better than four assists shooting 45 percent from the floor and 36 percent from the three-point line.
Garland will miss Monday’s game with a groin strain.
Porter Jr. is averaging nearly 14 points per game shooting 46 percent from the floor and 41 percent from the three-point line over his last 14 games since returning from a 10 game absence.
Porter Jr.’s lone season with the USC Trojans was a turbulent once has the highly sought after prep star struggled with inconsistency on and off the floor, as a result, the five-star talent dropped to the last pick of the first round, but seems to have found his footing in Cleveland.
The Jazz have gotten a recent surge from guard Donovan Mitchell who is averaging an impressive 34 points, six rebounds, and nearly four assists while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 42 percent from the three-point line. Despite his recent play, however, the Jazz are just 1-3 over the stretch, with all three losses coming in front of a home crowd.
After carrying the league-high four-game winning streak into the All-Star break, the Jazz emerged with four consecutive losses, further underlining the young roster as one of the streakier teams in the NBA.
The team’s wild swings in play may signal good things for the Jazz over their upcoming stretch. The Jazz haven’t had a one-off win surrounded by losses since December 7 against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Jazz haven’t had a winning-streak of fewer than four games dating back to December 11.
Forward Bojan Bogdanovic who has been a breakout star for the team since joining the roster over the summer has struggled since returning from the mid-season break but may have found his footing in the Jazz victory over the Wizards. The Croatian forward scored 21 points while knocking down 4-9 from the beyond the three-point line. The 20 point per game scorer was averaging just 11.5 points over his previous four games while shooting a miserable 27 percent from the floor and 17 percent from the three-point line.
The Jazz won’t face former lottery pick Dante Exum, who they traded to Cleveland in late December for guard Jordan Clarkson. Exum suffered a scary ankle injury in the Cavaliers surprise win over the Miami Heat last week and is expected to miss extended time.
Meanwhile, Clarkson has been a breakout star for the Jazz and will get consideration for the sixth-man of the year at season’s end. Clarkson is averaging just over 16 points per game with the Jazz and has provided a much-needed identity to the team’s second unit. The sixth-year guard will likely be a top priority for the team to resign when he hits free agency this summer.
The matchup marks the first of two meetings between the teams over the final 23 games of the season for the Jazz. Cleveland will return to Utah on April 1.
The Jazz and Cavaliers tip-off at 5 p.m. MST and will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet.
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