Utah (34-34) at Cleveland (31-36)

  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Fri Mar 19, 2004
  • TV: KJZZ, FSOH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The last time the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing this well, they ended up in the playoffs.

Their pursuit of the postseason continues as they go for their eighth straight win in a matchup with the Utah Jazz at Gund Arena.

The Cavaliers won their seventh in a row Tuesday with a 111-87 home victory over Chicago. This is their longest win streak since a 10-game run during the 1997-98 season, the last time they made the postseason.

Cleveland has gone 25-17 since its 6-19 start, including victories in 11 of 13 since the All-Star break.

The Cavs are sixth in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, one-half game ahead of New York and Miami.

“We’re clicking at the right time,” said reigning Eastern Conference player of the week Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had 24 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks for the Cavs on Tuesday.

“We’re playing our best basketball of the season right now, and that’s when you want to peak.”

Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 13 rebounds, and rookie LeBron James added 17 points and eight assists for the Cavs.

The trio of Ilgauskas, James and Boozer has averaged a combined 59.6 points and 27.7 rebounds over the last 13 games.

“I think we’re real dangerous,” James said. “We’re not just a one-dimensional team. There are a lot of Eastern teams that have one player that they go to. And that’s not it for us.”

The Cavs have posted wins over the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs and the Indiana Pacers, owners of the league’s best record, during their current six-game home winning streak.

Cleveland, which has won eight of the last 11 home meetings with Utah, is going for its first season sweep of Jazz since 1981-82.

The Cavs won 102-96 in overtime at Utah on Jan. 17 despite losing James to a sprained right ankle in the fourth quarter. They also lost Ilgauskas during the third quarter after the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian center was ejected for fighting with Utah’s Greg Ostertag.

The Jazz are 1 1/2 games back of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

They had won three straight and seven of nine before dropping their last two contests, including Wednesday’s 85-81 defeat at Toronto.

“We just didn’t make plays down the stretch that we needed to,” Utah center Jarron Collins said. “We’re competing for a playoff spot, with the Denver Nuggets, and they lost tonight. It would’ve been nice to get a win. We have to stick with it.”

Gordan Giricek had 25 points and Andrei Kirilenko added 20 for Utah, which fell to 1-2 on its five-game road trip.

Giricek is averaging 23 points—12.1 more than his season average—over his last three games.

STANDINGS (through March 17): Jazz - 7th place, 12 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Cavaliers - 5th place, 19 GB, Central Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Jazz - F Tom Gugliotta, F Kirilenko, C Collins, G Giricek, G Carlos Arroyo. Cavaliers - F Eric Williams, F Boozer, C Ilgauskas, G Jeff McInnis, G James.

TEAM LEADERS: Jazz - Kirilenko, 16.7 ppg and 8.1 rpg; Arroyo, 5 apg. Cavaliers - James, 20.8 ppg; Boozer, 11.4 rpg; McInnis, 6 apg.

SEASON SERIES: Cavaliers, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 17; Cavaliers, 102-96, OT. At Salt Lake City, Boozer had a career-high 32 points and 18 rebounds for the Cavs, who held a 52-33 advantage on the boards. Kirilenko scored 27 points for the Jazz.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Jazz - 11-23 on the road; Cavaliers - 20-13 at home.

INJURIES: Jazz - F Matt Harpring (knee); C Curtis Borchardt (wrist). Cavaliers - G-F Kedrick Brown (knee); C Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje (ankle).

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