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Cavs roll against familiar Jazz team, win fourth straight

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

CLEVELAND - On September 1st the Cleveland Cavaliers shook up the basketball world by acquiring three time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz in exchange for three unprotected first round picks, two pick swaps, Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, and rookie Ochai Agbaji, who the Cavs had drafted with their first round pick just a few months ago. On December 19th, the Cavs, led by Mitchell, steamrolled that same Jazz team by a score of 122-99.

Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

It was all love before the game between the Cavs (21-11) and Jazz (17-16), as there were reunions all around. Cleveland rosters three former Jazz players - Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto - while Utah is home to four ex-Cavs - Sexton, Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, and Agbaji, who never got the chance to suit up for a regular season game with the Cavs. Much of the pregame chatter was related to the gargantuan swap for Mitchell. The newest Cavalier reminisced on his time in Utah, where his team "did special things". Mitchell added that he is "forever grateful" for his time with the Jazz. From the other side of the trade, Markkanen told reporters that despite having just begun to put down roots in Cleveland - even buying a house nearby - he doesn't harbor ill will towards the Cavaliers organization, as he understands that "it's a business".

Markkanen certainly came out of the gates looking like he had something to prove in his return to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, however. His 22 first half points paced all scorers, and accounted for half of the Utah total through the first 24 minutes of basketball, but the seven-footer from Finland couldn't singlehandedly keep up with a Cavs team that was firing on all cylinders. Cleveland jumped out to an eight point lead after one period behind 11 points from Donovan Mitchell. They then extended the margin to 18 by the midway point of the game with a combination of strong shooting and domination in the paint. Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen made up the Cavs three-headed scoring attack in the first half, with 15, 15, and 14, respectively, combining to match Utah's first half point total.

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cavaliers never let the Jazz back into the game, in large part due to the defensive efforts of Isaac Okoro, who started for the second straight game He drew the defensive assignment of stopping Markkanen in the third quarter, and he did just that, holding Markkanen to a measly two points after the break. Meanwhile on the offensive end, while Mitchell (23 points) led the Cavs in scoring as usual, he got plenty of help from Allen (20). Allen was a stalwart defensively, as his coaches, teammates, and fans alike have grown used to, but he also took advantage of a weaker, less experienced Jazz frontcourt that featured 23 year old Jarred Vanderbilt at power forward and rookie Walker Kessler at center in the absence of veteran big Kelly Olynyk. Allen was a consistent paint presence, and had no trouble at all getting to the rim. The fifth year center out of Texas was rim running from all areas of the floor, and got rewarded with six dunks.

Garland made key contributions as well, continuing his streak of solid play over the past couple of weeks. His turnover issues have persisted - he racked up six on the night - but his shooting efficiency has improved from earlier this season,

and he is still dishing out assists at a high rate.

The game was all but over by the time the fourth quarter started, but Cedi Osman gave the home crowd something to stick around for, catching fire for 20 points in the final stanza to close out the Cleveland win. The victory kept Cleveland in third in the Eastern Conference standings, a spot they've called home for the better part of the season now, while it dropped the Jazz into eight, as they've cooled off following a surprisingly hot start to their campaign.


Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

- Jarrett Allen doesn't get enough love for what he

brings to this Cavs team. He should be considered the most deserving candidate should Cleveland send multiple players to Salt Lake City for the All-Star game.

- The shine has worn off for Utah. Their abundance of players with the ball-dominant, bulk scorer archetype has caught up to them, and they'll perform much closer to their preseason expectations than to their early season performance.

- That being said, the Donovan Mitchell trade was a win-win. The Cavs became title contenders overnight, while the Jazz now have an incredible assortment of young pieces to rebuild around, at least a couple of which are bound to develop beautifully.

- Walker Kessler is a very strong candidate to be the top youngster for the Jazz within a few years. He's not very flashy, nor is he the most polished young center in the league, but the talent is clearly there.

- Isaac Okoro's season has been fascinating. The former fifth overall pick was nearly out of the rotation early in the season, but has worked his way not only to getting significant minutes, but to putting up a solid performance as a starter.

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Facts and Figures:

- The Cavaliers are now 15-2 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, owners of the best home record in the NBA.

- The Cavs are 14-0 at home when Donovan Mitchell is playing.

Lauri Markkanen scored 22 of his 24 total points in the first half.

- Donovan Mitchell put up his 23 points in just 22 minutes of action

- The Cavs are currently riding a four game win streak for the third separate time this season

-Cedi Osman was one point away from a season high in scoring. He had just two points entering the fourth quarter

- Cleveland had seven players score in double-figures. Utah had just three

Game MVP: Jarrett Allen

Allen was all over the floor for Cleveland. His 20 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks were representative not only of his performance against Utah, but also of the effort he puts in day in and day out. Allen is always the defensive anchor for the Cavaliers, shutting down anyone brave enough to venture into the paint on his watch. Tonight, he got a chance to show out on the other end of the floor, too. Allen's persistent cuts to the rim did not go unrewarded, as he was able to rattle the rim numerous times. Allen's contributions often go unnoticed by the casual fan, so it's always nice for him to have a game that will help anyone watching understand what a good player he really is.

Cavs Next Up: vs Bucks

The Cavs have a date with the East's best on Wednesday night, as they host the 21-8 Milwaukee Bucks as the fourth game of a six game home stand. The Bucks have taken each of their first two meeting this year by 15 points, with both games being played at Fiserv Forum.

Follow Along: Be sure to follow @Cavs_District on Twitter for in-game updates, live analysis, team stats, and more!


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