It was a tale of two halves for the Utah Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday. In the first half, while the Jazz did not overwhelm, they led for the most part. In the second, it was all Cleveland as the Cavaliers lit things up offensively. A 39-point third quarter scoring foray helped the Cavs run away with the easy 113-102 win.
After a sub-par first half, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving turned things around after halftime, leading a dominant attack by the Cavs. The star point guard tallied 17 points and four assists in the third quarter as Cleveland turned a three-point deficit into a 15-point advantage. It kept it going in the fourth, and Utah simply could not put a dent into its disadvantage.
The Jazz desperately missed their leading scorer, Gordon Hayward, who sat the game out with a hip flexor injury. Cleveland gladly welcomed All-Star Luol Deng, who was acquired this week in exchange for the enigmatic Andrew Bynum.
Defensive disarray: Utah’s defense, while still ranked the lowest in the NBA, has seen a dramatic improvement of late. That was not evident Friday as the Jazz appeared totally discombobulated in the second half. Cleveland was able to score at will, and Utah seemed a step behind.
When all was said and done, the Cavs connected on 45 of 83 from the field — 54.2 percent. They did a lot of damage inside, putting it a whopping 54 points in the interior. Cleveland enjoyed a 21-15 edge on fast break points. It also made seven of 14 from downtown, including three treys off Irving’s blistering hand. Seven Cavs scored in double-digits.
Utah had just four steals and three blocked shots. It will have to go to work to get back defensively Monday vs. the Denver Nuggets.
Miles’ return: Swingman C.J. Miles is playing his best basketball of the season, coming off a game where he connected on 10 3-pointers. The athletic Miles kept up his torrid play against his former team. Doing most of his damage early on, he was extremely efficient, making six of seven shots and all four of his free throws. Miles totaled 17 points in a mere 24 minutes.
Odds and ends:
* The Jazz shot seven more free throws than the Cavs, but ended up making one less. Utah struggled all evening, hitting just 15 of 27 from the charity stripe.
* Richard Jefferson, who was rumored to be on the Cavs' radar, had a strong outing with 18 points and four assists.
* Enes Kanter had a double-double off the pine, with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.