SALT LAKE CITY — Following Utah’s 109-98 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena, all the talk in the Jazz locker room was about ... Enes Kanter’s post-game outfit.
Kanter had just played one of his better games this year for the Jazz, with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting with five rebounds, and just before a horde of media types descended on the Big Turkey in his corner of the locker room, Jazz veterans Jamaal Tinsley and Al Jefferson started the razzing.
“Man, look at that — ooh-wee,’’ Tinsley shouted loud enough for everyone to turn and look. “He’s got swag.’’
Then, before the media could ask Kanter any questions, Al Jefferson pushed through the crowd around Kanter and started evaluating his duds — a black velvet jacket with orange stitching over a gray shirt with designer jeans.
“Let’s talk about this,’’ Jefferson said. “Feel how soft this is ... Gucci shoes. What kind of belt you got on? Ooh, Louis.’’
“I’m Europe, I can do whatever I want,’’ Kanter said with a big smile on his face. “They cannot, they’re American. They’re always talking, I’m just not hearing it any more.’’
The Jazz were obviously in a giddy mood after winning for the seventh time in their last nine games to improve to 22-19 at the exact halfway point of the season with the victory.
Oh yeah, the victory.
Playing for the first time in five days, against the team with the second-worst record in the NBA, the Jazz sleepwalked through the early part of the game, woke up in the second quarter, expanded their lead to a comfortable margin in the third quarter and cruised home in the fourth quarter, when they were able to rest their starters for nearly the whole 12 minutes.
“I thought the guys did a good job pushing the ball down the floor,’’ coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We talked about fresh legs and we wanted to come out and demonstrate that. After we got our legs back under us, I thought we did a good job.’’
The Jazz finished with six players in double figures, led by Randy Foye with 20 points and Derrick Favors with 19. Besides Kanter’s 14, Jefferson also had 14 points and 11 rebounds, DeMarre Carroll scored 13 off the bench and Tinsley added 11. Earl Watson went scoreless but led the team with nine assists.
Cleveland was on the final game of a road trip that spanned nine days and five games. On Wednesday they had beaten Portland on the road behind Kyrie Irving’s 31 points, but Saturday the Jazz held him in check.
Irving hit just 7 of 20 shots from the field and finished with 18 points, while dishing out nine assists. The best player for the Cavs was Dion Waiters, a rookie out of Syracuse, who led the Cavs with 23 points off the bench and wowed the crowd with a couple of roundhouse dunks down the lane.
Cleveland coach Byron Scott gave credit to the Jazz bench, which outscored his 51 to 38.
“Their second unit was great,’’ he said. “It was offensive rebounds after offensive rebounds. Even when we got stops, it seemed like they got another opportunity.’’
The Jazz hadn’t played since Monday’s win over Miami, and it showed early.
“Too much rest,’’ said Jefferson. “One more day and I would have thought it was summer vacation.’’
The Jazz came out sluggish, just like they hadn’t played for nearly a week, falling behind 16-10. However, by the end of the quarter they were up 26-23, and by halftime the lead went to 53-48.
In the third quarter, the Jazz pushed the lead to 75-60 and went into the final quarter up 84-68.
Corbin kept Tinsley, Marvin Williams and Paul Millsap on the bench the entire fourth quarter, and Foye and Jefferson played just three minutes as the reserves held down the fort.
After leading by 18 midway through the quarter, the Jazz lead started to slip, but they didn’t get a repeat of their previous three games when they watched late leads melt away as the Cavs never got closer than 10.
Next up for the Jazz is another Eastern Conference bottom-feeder as Washington comes to town for a Wednesday night game at EnergySolutions.
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