Like that receiver who looks up in happiness for an apparent touchdown reception before realizing the ball had slipped out of his arms, the Jazz seemed prepared to put a losing skid behind them.
Then, it all fell apart as the Cavaliers triumphed, 104-101.
Utah (32-29) played quite well against awful Cleveland (21-40) for 44 minutes Wednesday night in hopes of ending a skid that has included four losses in the past five games. Then they botched a four-possession lead with as many minutes remaining.
Guards: Mo Williams returned after a two-and-a-half-month absence, though the 10th-year point guard didn't necessarily boost Utah too much with four turnovers against six assists, while shooting 3-of-12. He's now just 24-of-66 (36 percent) in the past seven games, going back to the half-dozen contests he played in December before he was sidelined. At least Cleveland floor general Kyrie Irving shot just 7-of-20, though he heated up a bit late with a 3-of-7 rate in the fourth quarter.
Randy Foye shot 3-of-6 from beyond the arc through three quarters but just 1-of 5 otherwise. Utah could have used his precision late, when Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin didn't put him in the game in the final half of the fourth quarter. Wednesday night marked Foye's best shooting outing in a half-dozen games when he shot the exact same rate. Though he has shot at an impressive 41 percent 3-point mark this season, Foye had shot just 1-of-12 combined in three of the past five contests. Credit him for his defense Wednesday night, too, in helping Wayne Ellington to a 4-of-12 night. GRADE: C-
Forwards: Paul Millsap (16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds) and opponent Tristan Thompson (16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 12 rebounds) essentially canceled each other out. DeMarre Carroll (2-of-6 shooting) was subpar offensively in a rare start, but helped play great defense in his 14 minutes against Alonzo Gee (6-of-16 shooting). Perhaps coach Tyrone Corbin thought Carroll would be a better fit on the front court with Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, who started at center in place of Al Jefferson? GRADE: C
Centers: Favors (six points, 12 rebounds, four blocks) was more than serviceable in his 31 minutes, with Enes Kanter (17 points on 8-of-11 shooting, seven rebounds, 21 minutes) once again paying huge dividends for the second straight game. Kanter scored 18 points and ripped 10 rebounds in the Jazz's unnecessary defeat at Milwaukee Monday night. Collectively, they were visibly better than the Cavaliers' center duo of rookie Tyler Zeller (1-of-5 shooting, just four rebounds in 23 minutes) and Marreese Speights (14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds). GRADE: B-
Bench: Three of Utah's five bench players scored, tallying 55 points against Cleveland's 34 to win the battle of the reserves once again. Though Marvin Williams was a non-factor (three fouls in 14 minutes) in his likely new eighth-man role, Kanter, Gordon Hayward (25 points, seven assists in just 34 minutes) and Alec Burks (14 points, four rebounds, four assists in just 27 minutes) were splendid. So was former Jazzman C.J. Miles, whose 12 points in just 18 minutes actually merely tied for his third-highest point rate in seven games. GRADE: A-
Overall: The turnover count for the Jazz was OK (15), and they shot an almost-respectable 44 percent from the field, compared to Cleveland's poor 41 percent. Their 9-of-19 accuracy from distance was perhaps the most glaring stat on the box score. But the final four minutes of a game certainly matter. Playoff teams don't wither as Utah did late. GRADE: C
Rhett Wilkinson studies at Utah State University and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. A two-time Deseret News intern, he now works as an intern for Deseret Book's LDS Living. email@example.com or @wilklogan
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