There are three reasons the Jazz’s upcoming six-game road trip doesn’t look as daunting as it did just days ago.
No. 1, Diante Garrett continues to establish himself as a legitimate NBA point guard.
No. 2, Gordon Hayward has shown signs in the last two games of returning to top form.
No. 3, Derrick Favors is healthy and anchoring a defense that has been outstanding.
Utah’s longest trip of the season begins Friday night at Cleveland. It includes stops in Indiana, Milwaukee, Washington, New York and Philadelphia.
Not exactly a gauntlet of high-powered opponents.
Outside of the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers and the improved Wizards, the Jazz play four teams with a combined record of 70-160.
As it stands, Cleveland, Milwaukee, New York and Philadelphia will miss the playoffs. The Bucks and 76ers, the two worst team in the league, are 26-88.
Meanwhile, the Jazz have found some traction after three straight loses following the All-Star break. They come off easy wins over Boston (110-98) and Phoenix (109-86) in games where Garrett, Hayward and Favors played significant roles.
Garrett finished with a career-high 15 points, two assists and two steals against the Suns. He had 11 points during a four-minute stretch early in the fourth quarter, when Utah pulled away.
“He did a great job,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “I thought his minutes were very effective minutes for us. He made shots, but I thought the way he set up the offense and made the right plays was really good.”
Garrett’s big game came against his former team. He spent last season with the Suns, although he rarely played.
“Definitely fun to play like that against one of your old teams — going out there, being aggressive and making some plays,” Garrett said.
With Garret playing well, Corbin has the option of playing rookie Trey Burke fewer minutes, which should help him in the final 25 games of the season.
Burke played 27 minutes against Phoenix.
“I just have to keep my confidence up,” Garrett said. “Knowing what I can do out there — playing my role and working hard every day — has helped a lot.”
Hayward just missed a triple-double against Phoenix as he battles back from a mini-slump sandwiched around the All-Star break. He finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
“… When we share the ball, we’re pretty good and I thought Gordon fought his way back and had a great game for us,” Corbin said. “We love the guy to death. We want to make sure he knows how important it is that he play well for us to have a chance.”
Favors has averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots in two games since returning from a nagging sprained hip.
On defense, Favors and the Jazz limited the Celtics and Suns to 41-percent shooting.
“We need to be full speed,” Corbin said. “We need all our pieces. When we’re full speed we have a chance to adjust some things and have some different options.”
Jazz at Cavaliers
O At Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland
Tipoff • 5:30 p.m. MST
Records • Jazz 20-36; Cavs 23-36
Season series • Cavs lead, 1-0
Last meeting • Cavs, 113-102 (Jan. 10)
About the Jazz • They have won two straight. ... They are 7-20 on the road and 10-10 against Eastern Conference opponents. ... They have shot 56 percent in back-to-back wins over Boston and Phoenix.
About the Cavaliers • They have won seven of their last 10 games. ... Despite being 13 games under .500, they’re within four games of a playoff berth in the East.