Cavs try to get it together vs. Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY -- Three losses in four games have the Cleveland Cavaliers searching for answers for what's going wrong on offense.
The Cavaliers have been held below 100 points in back-to-back losses for the first time this season. Now, Cleveland is searching for ways to get that offensive spark back when it faces the Utah Jazz on Saturday to finish off a three-game western road trip.
Utah expects to see a hungry and angry Cavaliers team on LeBron James' 33rd birthday.
"You always brace yourself for Cleveland," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after practice on Friday. "They're a good team, one of the best teams in the league. They were in the (NBA) Finals. They won the Finals (two years ago). Their group is the same. Obviously, with LeBron, there's a unique set of challenges that come with him and defending him."
Golden State beat Cleveland 99-92 on Christmas Day after limiting the Cavaliers (24-11) to 32 percent shooting from the field. The Cavs connected on just 25 percent of their two-point shots in that game.
In a 109-95 loss to Sacramento on Wednesday, Cleveland shot 43.2 percent from the field. Things completely unraveled in the fourth quarter when the Cavaliers managed just 15 points and James shot 6 of 17 despite getting a triple-double of 16 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.
The Kings took advantage and pulled away while shooting 52 percent from the field for the game.
"Pretty much got everything they wanted offensively from the perimeter to the paint," James said after Wednesday's game. "It was just one of those games. We had zero rhythm."
Utah is in a similar boat.
The Jazz (15-21) have lost three in a row and 10 of their last 12. An inability to put together a complete game has shown up in back-to-back blowout losses.
The Jazz never got going in the first half of a 107-83 loss to Denver on Tuesday. They totaled a season-low 34 points before halftime and shot just 28.9 percent from the field in the first two quarters.
Getting stops proved to be a problem in a 126-101 loss to Golden State on Wednesday. The Warriors shot 59 percent from the field and had 37 assists on 51 baskets. They repeatedly burned Utah on transition baskets to blow open a close game.
Getting through a grueling December schedule has been tough for the Jazz mentally and physically.
"We've been playing good, but sometimes we don't have enough," Utah guard Rodney Hood said Friday. "We play for three quarters and then we run out of energy because teams are real talented. The schedule will lighten up, but we've got to take what we learned in December and really put it to the test coming up in January."
Cleveland beat Utah 109-100 on December 16 in the other meeting between both teams this season. James notched his 60th career triple-double after finishing with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against the Jazz.
James hasn't won a game in Salt Lake City since Dec. 8, 2010, when he tallied 33 points, nine assists and seven rebounds to lead the Miami Heat to a 111-98 victory over the Jazz. The four-time MVP has endured six straight road losses to Utah since that time.
Updated December 29, 2017