Utah Jazz matchup to watch: LeBron James vs. Gordon Hayward

Utah Jazz matchup to watch: LeBron James vs. Gordon Hayward

Jazz (43-25) at Cleveland (44-22)

Today, 5 p.m.

Quicken Loans Arena


Coming off a big 97-83 win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night, the Utah Jazz are back in action as they head to Cleveland to face the defending champion Cavaliers. The Cavs are 44-22 and atop the Eastern Conference after their own win over the Pistons on Tuesday night.

While the Cavaliers have loaded their roster with veteran talent, the player who still makes everything go is LeBron James. James is in the middle of another MVP caliber season as he is averaging 25.9 points on 54 percent shooting from the floor. He also chips in with 8.9 assists, 8.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 61 games.

The key to slowing James down will fall on Jazz all-star Gordon Hayward who is having the best overall season of his career. He is averaging 22 points on 46.7 percent shooting and 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per outing through 61 games.

This will be the 11th meeting between the two, with Hayward and the Jazz holding a 6-4 advantage over James’ Cavs and Heat team. Most of that success has come in Salt Lake City, however.

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While it’s impossible to completely take James out of his game, one key to having success against him and the Cavs is to force him to settle for midrange jumpers where he shoots just 28.4 percent from 16 feet to the 3-point line according to Basketball-reference.com. It is also important to pressure James when he is trying to pass the ball. He has a 2.4 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio in wins compared to just 1.6 to 1 in losses.

As for Hayward, on the offensive end the key for him is to be in attack mode and try to get to the rim. Not only is he a strong finisher at the basket — 69.9 percent from zero to 3 feet — but the Jazz are much more successful when he gets to the foul line consistently. Even though he shoots a lower percentage in Utah victories he provides six points from the line in wins compared to four points from the free-throw line in losses.

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Published at Thu, 16 Mar 2017 19:41:00 +0000