SALT LAKE CITY: The Cavs’ long and winding road trip through the Western Conference concluded Saturday with a performance reminiscent of so many before — a quick start, followed by a defensive collapse and, ultimately, defeat.
The Cavaliers lost to the Utah Jazz 109-98 at EnergySolutions Arena and concluded their five-game trip at 1-4 while falling to 3-14 against the Western Conference this season.
The Jazz shot 50 percent from the floor, meaning three of the five opponents on this trip shot 50 percent or better as the Cavs’ season-long problems defending are obviously continuing.
Kyrie Irving had 18 points and nine assists and Dion Waiters had 23 points. Waiters was a game-time decision because he was sick most of Saturday with the same bug that has torn through the coaching staff and Irving at various points on this trip, but it certainly didn’t hinder his performance. Waiters spent most of his night attacking the rim, finishing with two powerful dunks and going 10-of-12 from the free-throw line to set career highs in both makes and attempts. Tyler Zeller had 13 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, while C.J. Miles had 12 points in his return to Utah, but only scored two in the second half.
The Cavs trailed by five at the half, but again unraveled with another difficult third quarter.
After a 3-pointer from Alonzo Gee pulled them within 58-54 early in the third, the Cavs went nearly three minutes without a basket as the Jazz stretched the lead to double figures. A three-point play from Paul Millsap and a 3-pointer from Marvin Williams in a span of 22 seconds stretched the lead to 75-60. The Cavs couldn’t escape the deficit.
Byron Scott’s pregame focus was keeping the Jazz out of the paint after Al Jefferson blasted the Cavs for 30 points and 12 rebounds on this court last season. He had 14 points and 11 rebounds Saturday.
The plan worked well early, since the Jazz had just two points in the paint in the first quarter, but 30 of their 58 points in the second and third quarters were scored in the lane.
Utah’s young bigs, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, came off the bench to score 33 points and grab 13 rebounds.
It took eight years for Miles to walk into the visitor’s locker room at EnergySolutions Arena. He spent his first seven years in the NBA in the Jazz locker room.
“This is foreign territory,” Miles said.
He made it through shootaround Saturday morning just fine, since there was hardly anyone in the building. But when he arrived for pregame and saw so many old faces, Miles became a bit more nostalgic.
He received a warm ovation when he was introduced as a starter prior to the game.
Scott said he was surprised coach Alvin Gentry was fired by the Phoenix Suns after their 13-28 start. He is the third coach to be fired this season, joining Avery Johnson and Mike Brown.
“I thought Al was doing a pretty good job with what he had,” Scott said. “I’ll give him a call in the next couple of days to see how he’s doing. Al was a friend of mine, somebody I’ve know for a long time and respect.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.