Jazz host Cavs, looking for more smooth sailing

STATS/TSX

The Utah Jazz have seemingly placed a bumpy start in the rearview window.

The suddenly hot Jazz look to extend their season-best winning streak to six games when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

Utah had trouble finding its stride through the first 2 1/2 months of the season but has won by average of 13 points during its five-game winning streak.

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The Jazz (25-21) pounded the Los Angeles Clippers 129-109 on Wednesday in their lone road contest in a nine-game span. Utah won four straight games at home prior to the contest and opens another four-game homestand with the game against the Cavaliers, who have dropped 13 of their past 14 games.

"We're a lot more focused," star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell told reporters after the rout of the Clippers. "It was helpful to stay home a little bit. We're locked in, we're ready to go. Even though we're short-handed a little bit, everybody is stepping up."

Mitchell has handled the bulk of the point guard duties for the past four games with starter Ricky Rubio (hamstring) and reserves Dante Exum (ankle) and Raul Neto (groin) all sidelined. The trio will again sit out on Friday.

Handling the ball more has only enhanced Mitchell's scoring abilities. He tallied 28 points against the Clippers and is the first Jazz player to score 25 or more points in seven straight games since franchise legend Karl Malone in 1998.

"He is obviously going to score the ball," Utah coach Quin Snyder said of Mitchell. "The biggest thing for him is attacking the rim."

Center Rudy Gobert is attacking the boards like never before in his six-year career.

Gobert had 22 rebounds against the Clippers one game after recording a career-best 25 against the Detroit Pistons on Monday. Gobert, who also scored 23 points, is the first Utah player with 20 or more rebounds in consecutive games since -- you guessed it -- Malone in 1988.

"It's great. Obviously he was a great player," Gobert said in a postgame television interview about matching Malone. "I'm just focusing on winning. Hopefully we get the next one and the next one and I'm already focused on the next game."

Cleveland's fortunes have continued to slide in the wrong direction as it enters the fifth contest of a six-game road trip.

The Cavaliers, who lost 117-91 at home to the Jazz on Jan. 4, have won just one contest in the past month.

Cleveland (9-360 dropped a 129-112 decision to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, when it remained in close proximity in the first half before allowing 67 points in the second.

"I just thought we ran out of gas," Cavaliers coach Larry Drew told reporters afterward. "There were guys that I thought did a heck of a job bringing us back within 10, but we just weren't able to sustain.

"When you get down against a team like this and you have to fight back, it's tough. You know, I told the guys after the game, on the road, you just can't dig those type of holes against a good team. We just weren't able to overcome that deficit."

Guard Jordan Clarkson scored a team-best 22 points off the bench and has topped 20 points in four of the past six games. Guard Rodney Hood added 20.

"We played well for three quarters and the game kind of slipped away from us," Hood, who formerly played for Utah, told reporters. "All in all, we gave a good effort."

--Field Level Media

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