CLEVELAND — The New Year didn’t start off so good for the Utah Jazz in Toronto the other day.
Raptors star Kawhi Leonard torched the Jazz for a career-best 45 points as Utah started 2019 with a 0-1 record.
Fast-forward to three days later.
With five minutes remaining in the third quarter of the second of a four-game road trip in Cleveland on Friday, Utah was tied at 64-64 apiece after Donovan Mitchell’s three-pointer.
After that, the Jazz stole the show, beating the Cavaliers 117-91 at Quicken Loans Arena. The victory also marked Utah’s largest road win in franchise history after trailing at intermission — according to Stats By STATS.
“It didn’t really feel like it to be honest,” said Mitchell, who led the team with 18 points, five assists and three rebounds on 7-for-12 shooting. “I think we just tried to turn our energy up on defense and kind of limited their options in transition. I think that’s what really got us going.”
Utah trailed 49-48 at halftime after allowing former Jazz player Rodney Hood to go for 12 points. Hood would go 0-for-1 in the second half to finish with 12 points on the night as his fellow ex-Jazzman Alec Burks also contributed a team-high 17 points on 6-for-13 shooting off the bench in their first games against their former team.
Utah closed the third quarter on a 17-7 run in the final five minutes of the third then opened the fourth on a 21-6 run before ultimately outscoring the Cavaliers 36-20 in the last 12 minutes.
“That was pretty dramatic,” said Jazz sharpshooter Kyle Korver, who finished with 10 points off the bench in his return to Cleveland after being traded. “I thought we came out with a good sense of urgency in the third quarter and our defense really set up the whole thing. I thought it was great in the second half.
“We got some good looks and finally started hitting some shots," he added. "We just got in a nice little rhythm.”
Eight Jazz players scored in double figures as the team shot 51.2 percent from the field while holding Cleveland to 39 percent. Utah improved to 19-20 on the season as they head to face the Detroit Pistons on the second night of a back-to-back in Detroit on Saturday.
Jae Crowder was the Jazz’s second leading scorer with 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting with five rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes. Ricky Rubio added 15 points with five assists and four rebounds.Comment on this story
“Our effort is always good but we were focused on making the right play defensively and that turns into some good opportunities on the offensive end and guys made some shots,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “It’s good to see the ball go in the basket. I think they all felt that way.
“The second half where Ricky (Rubio) made a couple and Dante (Exum) knocked one down in the first half,” he continued. "Jae (Crowder) obviously has been shooting it well and Donovan (Mitchell) as well.”