CLEVELAND (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points, Rudy Gobert added 20 and the Utah Jazz began a four-game trip against Eastern Conference teams with a 126-113 win on Monday night over the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers, who dressed only nine players and used just seven.
Donovan Mitchell had 19 points and nine rebounds, and the Jazz made 20 three-pointers while staying in the fifth playoff spot out West.
Collin Sexton scored a career-high 32 points and Kevin Love scored 22 for Cleveland, which dropped to 3-4 under coach JB Bickerstaff.
Utah was flat for long stretches, and some of that may have had to do with Cleveland’s poor record and depleted roster. The Jazz seemed in control while building an 18-point lead in the fourth, but the Cavs kept fighting and were still within 11 with six minutes left.
But Bogdanovic buried a pair of three-pointers — one coming after one of Gobert’s five blocks — and Utah recorded 30 assists while winning for the second time in six games. “We’re persistent. It’s just perseverance,” Mitchell said. “They had stretches where they were pushing back, but we just stayed persistent. This is a good win, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
The Cavs were missing two starters: Centre Andre Drummond (strained calf) and rookie point guard Darius Garland (strained groin). They sat on the bench in street clothes along with big man Tristan Thompson, who missed his second straight game with a bruised knee.
Bickerstaff was proud of the way the Cavs stepped up despite missing so many key pieces. Four of Cleveland’s players logged at least 39 minutes.
“These guys showed up,” Bickerstaff said. “They knew they were undermanned because of all the guys that were going to be out. They scrapped. They left it all out there. You almost have to play perfect. The effort was there all night. I give these guys a ton of credit for competing the way they did.”
Drummond’s absence forced Bickerstaff to play Love at centre against the seven-foot-one, shot-swatting Gobert, who went eight of nine from the floor, added nine rebounds and affected as many shots as he got his hands on.
Bickerstaff chose not to play two of his reserves — Matt Mooney and Dean Wade, who have spent most of the season with Canton of the G-League.
The Cavs hung around in the first half and trailed by eight at halftime.
However, the Jazz began to wear them down and opened a 15-point lead in the third quarter on a three-pointer by Bogdanovic.
Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson faced the Cavs for the first time since being traded to Utah on December 24, 2019.
Clarkson, who is wearing number 00 for Utah, received a nice ovation from the Cleveland crowd when he checked in during the first quarter.
“It was good to see him,” Love said. “It’s tough to play against him. It’s more than basketball with us. He’s family.”
While getting dressed after the game, most of the Jazz players were paying close attention to Houston’s game at New York, which the Rockets ended up losing. The Jazz are chasing the Rockets for the number four spot.