CLEVELAND (AP)—Damon Jones finally lived up to his own endless hype.
The self-described “best shooter on the planet” made four 3-pointers in a span of 3:17 in the third quarter, and LeBron James added 25 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers roughed up the Utah Jazz 110-85 on Tuesday night.
Jones’ flurry of 3s helped the Cavaliers blow the game open, allowing coach Mike Brown to give James some unexpected rest and sit Cleveland’s other starters for the entire fourth quarter.
“I had open looks,” said the fun-loving and talkative Jones, whose antics keep the Cavs loose and whose outside range makes Cleveland tough to stop. “I made the first one, and from there on, being the shooter that I am, I was looking to get more. They kept feeding me and I love it.”
Trailing by seven after one quarter, the Cavaliers clamped down on defense and held the Jazz to just 30 combined points in the second and third.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan was embarrassed.
“They could have beaten us by 100 points,” Sloan said. “That was one of the worst outings in the league that I’ve seen. We just gave them layups. We played selfishly at both ends. I’m upset with a lot of players.”
James added six rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in 29 minutes—12 less than his per-game average. He spent the entire fourth quarter cheering on Cleveland’s reserves.
“That was very strange,” said James, who is averaging 36.6 points on 62 percent shooting in his last five games. “We were way up, so I could sit over there.”
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was questionable until game time after sustaining a mild concussion on Saturday in a win over Miami, added 18 points and seven rebounds.
The Cavaliers outscored the Jazz 33-15 in the third quarter and shot a season-best 57 percent.
“That third quarter was it,” Jazz guard Devin Brown said. “It was a close game, but they really hit us.”
Utah rookie Deron Williams added 10 points. Jazz rookie Robert Whaley served his one-game team suspension after he and Williams were cited for lying to Salt Lake City police after a bar fight on Dec. 11.
Jones, signed by the Cavs as a free agent during the summer to improve their 3-point shooting, put on a long-range show in the third, when he and James combined for 25 of Cleveland’s first 29 points.
James scored 10 in the opening 4:24, driving past Jazz defenders at will for layups as the Cavs quickly extended their lead to 15. That’s when the ever-chirping Jones, took over.
Jones dropped 3-pointers on consecutive trips, punctuating each by extending three fingers on one hand over the top of the other—his signature “three on the platter” salute. Jones made his third 3-pointer in a 1:23 span before James got in on the fun with a 3-pointer to make it 75-51.
Jones then buried his fourth long-range shot in a little more than three minutes as Cleveland pushed its lead to 27.
“D.J. caught fire,” James said. “He’s very valuable when he’s making shots and even when he’s talking. He’s always talking, of course. He brought his ‘A’ game.”
The Cavaliers, who will play six of their next nine at home, held the Jazz scoreless for the first 4:20 of the second quarter and ran off nine straight points to take their first lead at 31-29.
Utah didn’t have a defensive answer for Ilgauskas, who scored 15 first-half points as the Cavs opened a 49-44 lead.
James came in averaging 41.7 minutes—too many for Brown. “It’s a big issue with me,” said Brown, who would prefer if James didn’t ever exceed 40. “I’m not doing a very good job of managing them (minutes) right now. It’s real hard to take him off the floor, but I still have to do better.” … Kirilenko, who played in just 41 games last season because of injuries, could be back for Wednesday’s game in Boston. … Cavs F Ira Newble made his season debut late in the first quarter after missing 22 games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He finished with five points in 23 minutes. “It felt good to be out there,” said Newble, who was winded in the fourth. “I was just trying to get my timing back. It’s like preseason to me.”