Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz Frontcourt Fuels Victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers
The Jazz are now 6-3 overall and seem to be building confidence as they continue to figure out their identity in this young season.
Though the Jazz kept putting Cleveland on the line, the Cavs shot 43 free throws compared to only 29 for Utah, the Jazz countered with their highest scoring output of the season.
The Utah Jazz’s Paul Millsap got going early against Antawn Jamison, scoring 12 points on 6-6 shooting in the first quarter, and 16 points on 8-8 shooting in the first half. Millsap fouled out with 5:33 left in the game and finished with 19 points while going 9-10 from the field.
Al Jefferson also helped the Jazz’s early effort by pulling down all but two of his 12 rebounds in the first half. Rookie Derrick Favors had another good game for Utah with 14 points and five rebounds, and offseason acquisition Josh Howard helped cement the victory.
Josh Howard had one of his best games of the season, helping the Jazz put the game away in the fourth quarter with 10 points and scored 17 overall in 25 minutes.
While Antawn Jamison led the Cavs with 22 points, and continually drew fouls on Jazz players, helping saddle Millsap midway through the third quarter with four fouls, it was the No. 1 pick of the 2011 NBA draft that made an impression on the home crowd.
Kyrie Irving showed the crowd at the EnergySolutions Arena why Cleveland chose him No. 1. Irving scored 20 electric points and added five assists, while consistently keep Jazz defenders off-balance trying to stay in front of the speedy rookie.
The Jazz were red hot to start the game, led by Millsap going perfect from the field. Earl Watson drained a 27-foot three-pointer as time expired to cap a blistering opening quarter, and overall, the team shot 61.5 percent in the first half to take a 52-43 lead at halftime.
Alonzo Gee also started off hot for the Cleveland Cavaliers, scoring eight points in the first quarter (3-of-3 from the field, 2-of-2 from the free-throw line), but he was sidelined midway through the second quarter after picking up his third foul.
C.J. Miles came out cold missing his first three before hitting a fadeaway 20-foot jumper with 1:09 left in the first half. That jumper seemed to (at least temporarily) lift him out of his recent slump, as he immediately split two defenders the next time down the court and made a nice pass to Millsap for an easy bucket.
Miles hit a big three-pointer with 36 seconds left in the game to help solidify the game for Utah, which will hopefully give him some more confidence as tougher competition heads to Salt Lake.
The Jazz’s recent five-game win streak will be tested against the Los Angeles Lakers, who beat Utah 96-71 to open the season.
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