Jazz 97, Cavaliers 88
James shot just 4-for-14 for 14 points. He was 4-for-8 from the foul line in the fourth quarter when the Cavaliers nearly regained the lead.
“I wasn’t able to breathe,” said James, who missed practice the last two days. “The energy that I usually have in my legs I just couldn’t get because I just didn’t have the energy.”
The loss, combined with New York’s victory over New Jersey, knocked the Cavaliers out of the No. 6 playoff spot in the East. Cleveland (31-37) is tied with Miami for the seventh spot.
Andrei Kirilenko had 21 points and four blocked shots and Carlos Arroyo had 15 for the Jazz, who climbed back to a game above .500. Utah pulled within a half-game of Denver, which lost to Detroit, for the eighth playoff spot in the West.
“This was a big win because we’ve squandered some opportunities of late, but put this one away,” Bell said.
Bell, who had a career-high 25 points earlier in the season, was 10-for-16 and made several huge baskets in the fourth quarter. The Jazz shot 51 percent.
“We know coming in this was going to be tough because they have been the hottest team in the league,” Bell said.
On a night when nothing went right for the Cavaliers, they managed to stay in the game and almost pulled out a win.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who led Cleveland with 24 points, got elbowed and left with a bloody nose with under seven minutes remaining. He returned about four minutes later.
The Cavaliers were without McInnis, who bruised his right shoulder in Tuesday’s game against Chicago. Kevin Ollie had just six points and two assists starting in McInnis’ place.
Cleveland is 11-4 since the All-Star break and 25-18 since opening the season 6-19.
Utah has won nine of its last 12 and is 2-2 on a five-game road trip that concludes Saturday in Atlanta.
Playing before a sold out crowd, the Jazz took the lead early and kept the Cavaliers from regaining the lead. It’s something few teams have been able to do at Gund Arena.
“I thought that we did not fight hard enough and you know they got too many open looks,” Silas said.
The Cavaliers were outrebounded 24-15 in the first half, but fought their way back into start the second half.
James picked up an overthrown pass for a wide-open, soaring dunk to make it 47-43 early in the third period. He later tied it at 55 on a pair of free throws.
But the Cavaliers couldn’t reclaim the lead.
James clearly wasn’t 100 percent. He was hunched over gasping for air and asked Silas to take him out with 3:32 left in the first half. He still managed to play 33 minutes.
“He was obviously drained of energy,” Silas said. “He clearly wasn’thimself.”
Silas said he hoped to have McInnis back for Sunday’s game against Detroit. … The Cavaliers were outrebounded 35-34 and are 5-14 when they lose the rebounding battle. They entered the game as best rebounding team in the league. … Tom Gugliotta had a season high 13 rebounds and tied a season high with eight points. … The teams were a combined 0-for-6 from 3-point range. … Silas said before the game that talk around Cleveland about the Cavaliers being in the playoffs was premature. “We still have to play quality basketball and maintain where we are,” he said. “Once we make it then we can startthinking about seeds and that kind of thing.”