Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers started their game against the Utah Jazz on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena in roughly the same fashion, and that's not a good thing. Irving turned the corner on pick and roll during the opening possession, fell flat on his face and watched a shot attempt clang off the rim. Likewise, the Cavs fell flat on their faces with a disastrous 15-point second quarter -- featuring 3-16 shooting (18.8 percent) from the field and 2-11 on shots in the paint -- which allowed Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz to seize control and pull off a 109-100 road win.
Things usually need to break just right for the Jazz to claim a win away from home -- they entered the contest 3-13 in road games -- but that's not how it happened against the Cavs. Starting point guard Devin Harris scored nine points and dished out one assist before he exited with a right knee sprain, and Raja Bell produced more turnovers (3) than points (2) despite usurping Hayward's spot in the starting lineup before the game. Luckily for Utah, those dark spots could not eclipse radiant performances by Al Jefferson and Hayward.
Jefferson challenged Cleveland's soft interior defense with an array of post-ups, face-ups and kick-outs and intimidated their offense on his way 25 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks, seven assists and zero turnovers -- all game bests. Meanwhile, Hayward responded to his benching in the best way possible. The second-year guard offered assertions on his ability in early opportunities and effectively forced head coach Ty Corbin to play him 28 minutes by manufacturing 23 points on a hyper-efficient 8-11 shooting and dishing out five assists without committing a single turnover. Cleveland defenders seemed unconcerned with Air Gordon for most of the night, and he channeled that into something great on the floor. For those of you keeping track, 48 points, 62.9 percent shooting, 17 rebounds, 12 assists and zero turnovers came from that Jazz duo.
As for the Cavs, Kyrie Irving followed up his literal stumble with a figurative one (0-6 from the field and one point from technical free throw in the first half), but recovered nicely by generating a bevy of buckets after the intermission to finish with a team-high 22 points. Al Jefferson improbably led the Jazz in assists on the night, so it makes a twisted bit of sense that Antawn Jamison passed out six helpers to pace the Cavs while augmenting his own 22-point effort. Neither Irving nor Jamison could stop the second quarter collapse, however.
Cleveland looked like they were throwing the ball at the hoop rather than shooting it in the second period. A sloppy 2-11 effort from the paint did more than enough damage during that 12-minute stretch to push the game out of reach the rest of the way. Kyrie's second half eruption turned into a garbage time gutter ball as the Cavs never again gained a lead after they fell behind by 15 at the half and only moved the deficit back under double digits with 49 seconds to play. After the game,
With the win, Utah moved to 18-19 overall, while the Cavs (13-23) upped their losing streak to seven straight. games.