Jazz back in playoff picture
SALT LAKE CITY
The Utah Jazz climbed back into the Western Conference playoff picture without even playing for four days.
When they returned to action against lowly Cleveland on Saturday, they made sure they didn’t give up any ground with a 109-98 victory.
“We talked about having fresh legs and we wanted to come out and demonstrate that,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “I thought the guys did a good job of pushing the ball down the floor.”
The Jazz held a 21-5 edge on the fast break.
And with Randy Foye hitting three 3-pointers in Utah’s 31-point third quarter, the Cavs didn’t have a chance.
Utah led by 16 after three and by as many as 18.
Foye led Utah with 20 points, including four 3s, as the Jazz improved to 22-19 at the midway point.
The Jazz have won five of their last six, and six straight over the Cavs (10-32).
Utah also plays 13 of its next 18 at home, where the Jazz are 13-4.
Derrick Favors added a season-high 19 points, opening 7 of 7, and Enes Kanter had 14 on 7-of-8 shooting as Utah’s bench accounted for 51 points.
“You have to give them credit, their big guys are good,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said.
“Their second unit was great,” Scott added. “It was offensive rebounds after offensive rebounds. Even when we got stops, it seemed like they get another opportunity.”
Dion Waiters led the Cavs with 23 points off the bench.
Tristan Thompson’s three-point play with 2:39 remaining got Cleveland within 104-94. But the Jazz got three chances on their next possession, with Gordon Hayward converting on a short jumper. Kanter then followed with another basket to bump Utah’s lead back to 14.
Kyrie Irving added 18 points with nine assists for Cleveland, but started 1 of 7 from the field before finishing 7 of 20.
Afterward, he expressed frustration.
“When our guys want to get it going, we just don’t,” he said. “We talk about it. Then teams make shots and we just don’t respond.”
“Coming out in the third and fourth quarter, we just get soft,” he added, saying he was trying to make plays for his teammates.
Waiters said the Cavs “let this one slip away” in the third quarter.
“That’s where we’ve had trouble all year is in the third quarter. We just got to stay the course,” he said. “Come out and be aggressive and do the same thing we did in the first half in the third and fourth quarter.”