However, it was Giricek’s final defensive play in Utah’s 99-98 win Wednesday night that bothered the Cavaliers the most.
Giricek collided with Sasha Pavlovic before Pavlovic got off a 37-foot shot that missed at the buzzer. The Cavaliers thought he was fouled and stood in disbelief after the buzzer when none of the officials blew a whistles.
“He dribbled the basketball and Giricek tried to take a charge and he slid to the side and he fouled him with time on the clock,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “Maybe that’s too tough a position for the refs to be in to make that type of call. Watching the replay, it was a foul and it’s unfortunate for us.”
The Jazz were badly outrebounded and made just 60 percent of their free throws, but the held James to just eight points in the second half and beat Cleveland for the first time in nearly three years.
Utah has won six straight entering the All-Star break. Deron Williams scored a career-high 33 points and had 12 assists for Utah and Giricek—not known for his defensive play—held James to 1-for-5 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“Gira did a great job on him,” Williams said. “We know who’s hands the ball’s going into and he stepped up and did a great job defending him.”
The Jazz improved to 6-1 since leading-scorer and rebounder Carlos Boozer— the former Cavalier—was knocked out of the lineup with a small fracture in his left leg.
Boozer sat behind the Utah bench and saw a thrilling finish.
Cleveland had a final chance after Williams missed a runner with about 5 seconds left and Pavlovic got the loose ball and heaved a shot after running into Giricek.
Pavlovic, James and Anderson Varejao lamented after there was no foul called and the Jazz celebrated the victory.
“Sasha’s going full speed and a guy bumps him,” James said. “I mean, no matter what type of game it is, I think that it’s a foul.”
James finished with 23 points and Larry Hughes scored 33 for the Cavaliers.
Varejao pulled down 17 rebounds and James and Drew Gooden had 10 boards apiece as the Cavaliers outrebounded the Jazz 49-37. But James didn’t make a field goal in the fourth quarter until 1:15 remained as Cleveland tried frantically to rally after falling behind 97-89 on an 8-0 run by the Jazz.
Giricek finished with eight points and one steal. Coach Jerry Sloan left him in for the entire fourth quarter—when Giricek is usually on the Jazz bench, especially in close games.
“There’s times where I maybe should have played him a little bit more,” Sloan said. “I stuck with him tonight because I thought he was doing a fairly decent job.”
After Hughes tied it at 89-89 on two free throws with 3:34 left, Okur scored five during the 8-0 run over the next minute and a half.
James then made two free throws and a layup—his first field goal of the fourth quarter—to get Cleveland to 97-93. Varejao added a layup to cut the margin to two, then after Williams hit a 19-footer for the Jazz, Pavlovic made a 3 to get the Cavs within 99-98 with 28 seconds left.
Williams tried to milk as much of the shot clock as he could and got off a runner that bounced off the rim. Paul Millsap almost corralled the rebound for Utah, but knocked it outside and Pavlovic was there to grab it on the run.
Pavlovic and Giricek collided right at the Jazz logo and Pavlovic got his shot off just before the buzzer, but was off.
Cavs G Daniel Gibson sprained a toe and did not play in the second half. He was listed as doubtful for Thursday’s game against the Lakers. … Cleveland had swept the last two seasons against the Jazz. … Williams’ previous career high was 31 points on Jan. 17 at Detroit. … Kirilenko’s three blocks gave him 1,002 for his career. … The Jazz were just 14-for-23 from the foul line while the Cavs weren’t much better, going 21-for-29. James was 5-for-9 from the line and scored just eight points in the second half.