One of the first tasks for the newly acquired Luol Deng is helping the Cleveland Cavaliers improve their NBA-worst road record. A visit to the Utah Jazz, however, wouldn’t seem an ideal way to start.
Cleveland has historically struggled in Salt Lake City and will face a Jazz team that’s seeking to add to a season-high win streak at EnergySolutions Arena on Friday night.
Deng is expected to make his debut for Cleveland in the opener to a season-high, five-game road trip. The Cavaliers (12-23) got the forward from Chicago on Monday for Andrew Bynum’s cap-friendly contract and draft picks.
Deng, averaging career highs of 19.0 points and 3.7 assists to go with 6.9 rebounds, had played all nine-plus seasons with the Bulls.
"He’s a veteran who’s still in his prime," coach Mike Brown said. "He adds to the culture of what we’re trying to do here. He’s definitely a two-way player that can add an amount of professionalism, a maturity, and winning ingredients to any ball club."
Deng will attempt to help Cleveland improve on a 2-15 road record and boost its chances of ending a four-year playoff drought. The Cavaliers are within two games of eighth-place Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference, but they have dropped their last five away from home.
They’ve lost 10 of 13 overall but have split their last four games. A 111-93 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday marked the first time in five contests that Cleveland scored more than 87 points.
C.J. Miles made a franchise-record 10 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 34 points in that victory. Kyrie Irving had 16 points and eight assists while ending a three-game absence due to a bruised left knee.
"It definitely feels good, especially right before you’re about to go on a road trip," Miles said. "It’s a big road trip. We’re going to play some good teams. It’s already hard enough to win on the road and then playing some really good teams. The biggest thing is to take that momentum."
Miles, who played his first seven seasons in Utah, is averaging 22.0 points and shooting 53.1 percent from 3-point range (17 of 32) in four games this month. He was averaging 8.3 points and shooting 35.0 percent from beyond the arc in his first 27 contests.
Even another strong performance from Miles might not help Cleveland end its recent struggles in Utah.
The Cavaliers have dropped four straight and six of seven there, and they’re 7-27 all-time in Salt Lake City. They had lost six in a row overall in the series before a 104-101 victory March 6.
Utah also enters with a meager record (12-25) but has won four in a row at home. After beating three straight sub-.500 opponents, the Jazz topped Northwest Division-leading Oklahoma City 112-101 on Tuesday.
Gordon Hayward had a career-best 37 points and made 13 of 16 shots to lead the way in Utah’s season-high, 58.8-percent performance.
Hayward, who also had 11 rebounds and seven assists, is shooting 60.4 percent (29 of 48) in this month’s three games. He was previously shooting 39.7 percent.
"I was in the zone a little bit tonight. It’s finally good to be there. It’s been a rough season shooting for me," Hayward said.
Hayward is averaging 17.7 points and shooting 47.4 percent in his last three games against Cleveland.