Utah Jazz: Ex-Jazz players return to put hurt on Utah as Cavs' supporting cast

Published: Sunday, Jan. 25 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

LeBron James, as usual, was the clear-cut star of the game for the Cleveland Cavaliers in their 102-97 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

But the Cavs' starting backcourt of Mo Williams and Sasha Pavlovic — both 2003 draft picks by the Jazz — were supporting players who really hurt their former team down the stretch.

Williams, after a rough shooting first half, finished the game with 25 points including 10 in the fourth quarter. Pavlovic, meanwhile, scored seven of his 13 points in the final five minutes as the Cavs held off the jazz.

Mo Williams was 2-for-9 shooting with three personal fouls in the first half thanks to the tough defensive assignment of trying to guard Jazz star Deron Williams. But the Cavaliers point guard came up huge in the third and fourth quarters.

"(Mo) came back and hit big shot after big shot after big shot," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown. "He kept the tempo where we wanted. And then there's Sasha. He hit some big shots down the stretch and hit a couple of big free throws."

James was hardly surprised by Mo Williams' 20-point, four assist second half. In fact, Cleveland's superstar feels his teammate deserves some national attention.

"Mo better get player of the week and he should be in the All-Star game," said James. "Right now there is no better point guard in the conference."

Pavlovic has been coming off the bench for the Cavs this season, but has recently been inserted into the starting role due to an injury to Delonte West. That has helped his game, according to James.

"(Pavlovic) knows he is our starting two-guard and is going to play a lot of minutes," said James. "He's getting that confidence back up where we need it to be."

Williams and Pavlovic were Utah teammates during the 2003-04 season as rookies, learning the NBA ropes under veteran Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. Williams, however, played well enough with the Jazz that year to get a big free agent contract and a starting job for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Pavlovic, meanwhile, was left unprotected by Utah and was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2004 expansion draft before being dealt to Cleveland.

Now those two Jazz draft picks from '03 are 40 percent of the starting lineup for one of the best teams in the NBA.

Before the game and again afterward, Williams made a point of going to the Jazz bench to shake hands with the Utah coaches and with general manager Kevin O'Connor.

"I just wished them luck," said Williams. "I'll always have a special place in my heart for (the Jazz) organization, especially for Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson. When I was a rookie, in my opinion, (playing for the Jazz) was the best experience I've had as an athlete thus far for my career. They were extremely fair. ... They really put in the work to help me get better as a basketball player and helped me learn the point guard position."


E-mail: lojo@desnews.com

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