The Utah Jazz are ready to get back to work after a lengthy layoff.
The Jazz will try to slow down Kyrie Irving and the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, who are wrapping up a five-game road trip Saturday night.
Utah (21-19) has not played since a 104-97 victory over Miami on Monday. Coach Tyrone Corbin gave the Jazz the next two days off before they returned to practice Thursday.
“It was good while it lasted,” top scorer Al Jefferson said.
The Jazz are one of three teams to play a league-low 16 home games to this point. The contest with the Heat began a stretch of 10 of 12 at home for Utah.
“I think we’re not exactly where we want to be but we’re in the range of being in position to get ourselves in the playoffs, and to take a good run here with this homestand that we have, we’ll put ourselves in a good position,” Corbin said.
Another team that has played 16 at home is Cleveland (10-31), which ended a three-game slide with Wednesday’s 93-88 victory at Portland. Irving bounced back from consecutive 15-point efforts to score 31 as he outdueled rookie point guard Damian Lillard.
“When he’s aggressive, he’s pushing the ball and he’s in attack mode,” coach Byron Scott said of Irving. “I think our guys feed off of that.”
Irving averaged 21.0 points on 51.5 percent shooting as a rookie last season in two defeats to the Jazz, who have won five straight in this series.
Former Cavs All-Star point guard Mo Williams is out for Utah following thumb surgery. Jamaal Tinsley has started in his place the last 12 games, with the Jazz winning seven times.
Jefferson, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds against the Heat for his third straight double-double, insists that Utah won’t overlook Cleveland.
“We’ve got to be ready to play, we’ve got to treat them just like we treated the defending champs,” Jefferson said. “Go out there with that (same) kind of mindset and that kind of confidence because that’s the worst to lose a game that you’re supposed to win.”
The Jazz will see a familiar face when C.J. Miles returns to face his former team for the first time. A second-round pick by Utah in 2005, Miles spent his first seven seasons with the club before signing with Cleveland in the offseason.
Paul Millsap, the Jazz’s second-leading scorer, was a second-round pick the year after Miles – who has started his last eight games for the Cavs.
“We still keep in touch a lot,” Millsap said. “I’m happy to see him do well out there. Hopefully he can continue to do it, just not Saturday.”
The Cavs know they are rebuilding with two second-year players and a rookie in their starting lineup with the injured Anderson Varejao out. In addition, rookie second-leading scorer Dion Waiters has been coming off the bench lately.
“All these losses that we’ve accumulated this year and the heartaches that we’ve had are going to make us a better basketball team in the future, and I truly believe that,” Scott said. “But you have to go through this process.”