Image licensed from USA Today Sports
The Cleveland Cavaliers (5-6) have lost four of their past five games, mainly because of who is not suiting up these days due to injury. The Cavaliers have had to play without seven players, including Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Darius Garland, Kevin Love, Kevin Porter, an Dylan Windler. Leading scorer Collin Stanton has not played the past two games, and is listed as questionable. Those injuries have left head coach JB Bickerstaff with an extremely short rotation. The Cavs are also playing the second game of a back-to-back after losing 101-91 to the Memphis Grizzlies last night.
Bickerstaff has said that he has been proud of how his team has had to play “ugly,” emphasizing defense. The result has kept the Cavs competitive. Against the Grizzlies, Cleveland place five players in double figures, paced by Andre Drummond’s 19 points and 14 rebounds. In the Cavs’ previous loss to Milwaukee, Drummond scored 26 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in the loss.
Utah (6-4) will be full strength when they suit up against Cleveland, and has won two games in a row. The Jazz followed up their 131-118 win against Milwaukee with a hard fought 96-86 win over Detroit. In that game, the Jazz jumped out to a 9-0 lead and never trailed. Donovan Mitchell scored 28 points, while Mike Conley added 22. The Pistons did cut the lead to five late, but the Jazz never allowed Detroit to get closer.
Jazz Looking for Eastern Conference Road Sweep
A win against shorthanded Cleveland will give the Utah Jazz a three game sweep of Eastern Conference opponents in their current road trip. Donovan Mitchell, the team’s leading scorer, has averaged 23 ppg and five assists per game. Big man Rudy Gobert has averaged 12.4 ppg, 13.7 rpg, and 2.8 blocks per game. Jordan Clarkson has averaged 16.8 ppg while shooting 41.9% from beyond the arc.
Offensively, the Jazz are fourteenth in the NBA in effective field goal percent (53.8%), 18th in turnover percent (13.4%), third in offensive rebounding percent (25.3%), and 28th in free throws per field goal attempts (.152). Defensively, Utah is sixth in opponents effective field goal percent (51.3%), 20th in opponent turnover percent (10.0%), 4th in defensive rebounding percent (80.3%), and 5th in opponents free throws per field goal attempts (.158).
Shorthanded Cavs Keeping It Respectable
NBA teams aren’t generally able to withstand injuries to seven players at the same time, especially ones like leading scorer Collin Sexton, crafty veterans Kevin Love and Matthew Dellavedova, and key role players like Dante Exum and Darius Garland. So essentially, the Cavs are trying to compete without three starters and three key reserves. In their absence, Andre Drummond has taken on a ton of offensive production. In his last two games, Drummond has scored 45 points and grabbed 38 rebounds. Cedi Osmon and Larry Nance, Jr. have also taken on more pronounced roles. Osmon has averaged 11.4 ppg, while Nance has averaged 10.3 ppg and 5.8 rpg.
As a team, the Cavs are 27th in the NBA in effective field goal percent (50.2%), 26th in turnover percent (14.4%), 8th in offensive rebounding percent (23.9%), and 29th in free throws per field goal attempts (.152). Defensively, Cleveland is 11th in opponents effective field goal percent (52.4%), 1st in opponent turnover percent (17.2%), 30th in defensive rebounding percent (74.7%), and 6th in opponents free throws per field goal attempts (.158).
This one’s a no brainer. Cleveland’s roster has been decimated by injury, which is bad enough. But, the Jazz present a difficult matchup on the boards for the Cavaliers. Utah is third in the league in offensive rebounding percentage, while Cleveland is 30th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage. The question is how much will the spread be? Cleveland has lost by 10 in each of their last two games, but this one could be a little more lopsided as the Cavs are on the second game of a back-to-back. I’m taking Utah big in this one.
Cleveland has managed to hold both of their previous opponents well under their season scoring averages. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have struggled on offense with so many injuries. With all of these factors weighing on this game, I’m taking the UNDER.