I’m sure he’s been hearing it, we hear it, that he hasn’t won here in the last few years. —Jazz guard Rodney Hood, on LeBron James
SALT LAKE CITY — In recent years, there hasn’t been a more difficult place for LeBron James to win than Vivint Arena, where he has lost six straight times — three times with Miami and three with his present team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James, arguably the best player in the NBA over the past decade, will get another chance to break the streak, which dates to December of 2010, Saturday night when the Cavaliers pay a visit to Vivint for a 6 p.m. contest.
Just don’t ask anyone on the Jazz about James’ losing streak in Salt Lake.
“I'd rather not answer that,” said Rodney Hood with a smile when LeBron’s streak was brought up after Friday’s practice. “I’m sure he’s been hearing it, we hear it, that he hasn’t won here in the last few years.”
Hood said it’s not so much about LeBron but more a case of the Jazz needing a win, period, after a brutal month in which they’ve played 13 of 14 games against playoff-bound teams. They come into Saturday night’s game having lost 10 of their last 12.
“We need a win bad, especially against a good team,” Hood said. “That will do a lot for our confidence . . . I think it will be a good game."
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said his team is well aware of what Cleveland brings, as a team that won the NBA title in 2016 and was in the finals in 2015 and last year.
“You always brace yourself for Cleveland, one of the best teams in the league,” he said. “Their group is the same and obviously with LeBron, there’s a unique set of challenges that come with defending him.”
Even while saying Cleveland has the same group, Snyder says the past has little to do with this year’s game.
“I don’t think last year is relevant,” he said. “We know who they are and they’re tough to play against. If you have success, that’s a good thing and hopefully we can continue some of that, but it’s not easy.”
While the Jazz come limping into the last game of 2017, with 10 losses in the month already and several players still out (Rudy Gobert, Raul Neto, Dante Exum), Cleveland comes to town having lost having lost three of its last four games, all on the road, with only a 115-112 win over Chicago on Dec. 21. The Cavs lost at Milwaukee two days before that, on Christmas Day at Golden State and Wednesday in Sacramento 109-95.
Snyder doesn't believe the Cavs will be extra motivated to win Saturday because of their recent struggles and neither does Rucky Rubio, who Friday was honored with the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for November.
“You never know, a lot of teams go through bad stretches but this is one of the best teams in the league with one of the best players, if not the best in history,” said Rubio. “We’ve got to be ready, they’re going to come out harder because when bad results come, good players step up. We’re ready for the battle We need that game to close out a bad month.
After being in the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference as recently as two weeks ago, the Jazz are now No. 10 in the West, four games out of the No. 8 spot. And it doesn’t get much easier for the Jazz. After playing New Orleans at home on Wednesday, they’ll head out on another road trip against three playoff-bound teams, Denver, Miami and Washington before finishing up at Charlotte.
JAZZ NOTES: Rudy Gobert was seen working out at practice Friday and is supposed to be re-evaluated this weekend. Some reports had him being out for a month, but he returned from his earlier injury earlier than expected . . . Neto is still out after missing the last nine games on concussion protocol. It was revealed Friday that he has a left knee bone bruise that happened on the same play in the game at Milwaukee Dec. 9 . . . The Jazz lost to the Cavaliers 109-100 in Cleveland two weeks ago.