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One stop: The Jazz explain defensive stand that won them the game in Cleveland



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

CLEVELAND — One stop.

After everything that happened in the first 47-plus minutes on Sunday — from Utah losing a 15-point fourth quarter lead to Donovan Mitchell dropping 35 points — it all came down to one possession.

With 17.9 seconds left, the Jazz held a 1-point lead and the Cavaliers had the ball.

All the moves that Cleveland's Darius Garland used to drop 31 points were on full display. He dribbled in, hesitated, tried crossovers, but he never shook Mike Conley. Garland was forced into a deep 3-pointer from near the logo and the Jazz disrupted a couple tip-in attempts enough to survive with a 109-108 victory.

Just like that, nothing else mattered. Yes, the Jazz were on the verge of blowing out the Cavaliers before turnovers and some great Cleveland shot making made for a 15-0 run in less than three minutes. It was bad, real bad.

And yes, the offense that had been so crisp and pass-happy for much of the night, turned into an isolation-heavy one — also, not good.

"I think we all would like to not give up a 15-0 run," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "But that's one side of it; the other side is not allowing that to bury you to be resilient and bounce back."

By the end, all that was important was whether or not Conley could stay in front of Garland. The Jazz knew it was going to go to the young rising star. He had already hit five 3s in the game and had scored 9 points in the quarter as part of the Cavs' comeback. They were going to go to him.

"I knew it was going to go to him," Conley said of the game's final possession.

Conley guessed that Garland was going to try to drive to his right to get to the basket — he guessed right. Conley fought over screens and halted the drive, which forced the ball out of Garland's hands. But his work wasn't done. Garland reset and got it back behind the 3-point line.

After a couple crossovers, Conley forced Garland out near the Cavs' center court logo. With the clock winding down, it was the shot Garland had to live with.

"I was just trying to chase him and apply pressure as much as possible," Conley said. "I saw the time running down and tried to stay up as high as I could."

It was a long possession for Conley, who said it made him feel old trying to chase around the young Garland. He even told the Cleveland guard that it felt like he was playing against a younger version of himself.

Even with it being a tough shot, Mitchell had some bad flashbacks as it went up. The Jazz had lost on similar moments to both New Orleans and Memphis this season, and he couldn't help but think this was about to be No. 3.

This time, however, the ball bounced the Jazz's way — Garland's shot missed.

The possession, though, wasn't over.

Cleveland is a unique team. While everyone is playing smaller and smaller, the Cavs regularly trot out three 7-footers all at the same time. So when it came to the final possession, the Jazz knew the possibility of an offensive rebound wasn't just possible, it was darn right likely.

Rudy Gobert is a great rebounder — he finished with 20 boards in what Snyder called a "dominant" performance (without him, the last possession would have been meaningless; the Cavs would have already won) — but Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O'Neale, Mitchell and Conley aren't the tallest NBA players. Advantage: Cleveland.

As the Jazz exited their final huddle, Gobert turned to O'Neale and said emphatically: "We have to get the rebound."

They got close enough.

The scorebook said the Cavs got two offensive rebounds and two put-back attempts after Garland's miss, but neither was clean. Jarrett Allen got a finger on the ball and got it to bounce off the rim, and Gobert and O'Neale converged on Evan Mobley's second put-back try and halted it before it had a chance to go in.

As the ball fell to the court, the clock hit zeros. The Jazz could finally breathe a sigh of relief as they celebrated their fourth straight win to improve to 16-7 on the season.

"It doesn't matter what happens for us for 47 minutes," Mitchell said. "That last minute, we really did a lot of things right, execution wise. When it's time to lock in, sometimes it's just a matter of will more than anything else."

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