SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Without its top three centers, Rudy Gobert, Hassan Whiteside and Udoka Azubuike, the Jazz small ball was no match for the massive Cleveland Cavaliers.
Lamar Stevens scored 15 of a career-high 23 points in the third quarter and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the short-handed Utah Jazz 111-91 on Wednesday night.
With Gobert, Whiteside, Azubuike and forward Rudy Gay in COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the Jazz went with 6-foot-5 Royce O’Neale as their starting center. Utah just got overpowered in suffering its fourth straight loss for the first time this season.
Darius Garland had his first triple-double with 11 points, a career-high 15 assists and a career-high 10 rebounds. Lauri Markkanen added 20 points, Kevin Love had 16, and Eric Mobley finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven assists. Cleveland improved to 3-1 on its six-game trip.
Stevens finished with a career-high in points for the second time in three games.
Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points for the Jazz. Eric Paschall added 18 points, and Donovan Mitchell had 17. Utah lost its fourth consecutive game and suffered a wire-to-wire loss for the first time in 117 games.
“Obviously, it’s a little difficult being against a team that’s got like three 7-footers but we go out there and we try and do the right things,” Paschall said. “They were just a really big team.”
Cleveland took advantage of the small lineup and never trailed. The Cavaliers had a 50-32 rebounding edge and outscored Utah 60-36 in the paint.
The Jazz erased an 11-point deficit late in the first quarter with baskets on seven consecutive possessions. Clarkson drove for a layup to kickstart the run and scored back-to-back baskets to help Utah tie it at 24.
Cleveland gradually built up a double-digit lead again before halftime. Love and Markkanen made back-to-back baskets to ignite a 14-4 run that put the Cavaliers up 50-36 midway through the second quarter.
Mitchell and Bogdanovic made back-to-back 3-pointers to cut it to 62-58 early in the third quarter. Cleveland answered with a 21-0 run to keep Utah from erasing a lead once again. Stevens scored on four straight possessions to fuel the spurt and finished it off with a dunk that gave the Cavaliers an 83-58 lead.
He scored one less point in the third quarter than Utah totaled as a team.
“Habitually, we play pick and roll with our five,” said Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. “Not having a five can impact that.”
The Jazz shot just 40 percent from the field, compared to 53 percent for the Cavs. Cleveland dominated the points in paint, 60-36.
The Jazz went 5 1/2 minutes without scoring during the third quarter.
“We got a little stagnant,” Mitchell said. “It’s tough when we’re doing things on the fly, but still we can get to what we do — get into the paint and finding guys who are open. We’re going to continue to fight. We’ve got a few days off and hopefully the guys can get healthy and get back.”
Joe Ingles made his return to the floor after missing the last four games because of Covid. But Ingles lasted just 13 minutes, getting ejected after two technical fouls.
“We got hung up in some individual confrontations with referees that I thought distracted us,” Snyder said. “We can’t have that in a game like this because the margin for error is so small.”
Utah is off until Sunday when it plays at Denver.