"We all know how good he is," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "You get to a certain point in the game, that's what you expect. We tried to take stuff away from him, but we made it too easy on him at times and he doesn't need any help. We didn't make baskets late, and we didn't execute the way that we needed to on the offensive end."
Utah was a frustrated team in the moments following the loss, if for no other reason than the Jazz had their chances to steal the game. Even with James' heroics — he scored or assisted on every basket for Cleveland in the last eight minutes — Utah surrendered just 91 points. In the Jazz's mind, 90 points should've been a relatively easy bar to clear, even on the tail end of a back-to-back.
But Utah didn't shoot the ball well. The Jazz didn't take care of the ball and they didn't play well offensively. Utah shot 41 percent against the Cavaliers and went 5 of 21 from 3-point range. The Jazz turned the ball over 16 times, and handed out just 18 assists. Utah's feeling is this: Had the Jazz played to their capability on offense, James' huge fourth quarter wouldn't have mattered.
"We should've made some shots," Jazz point guard George Hill said. "Other than a couple of breakdowns defensively and LeBron being LeBron, the best player in the world, we held them to 91 points. We put ourselves in position, but we didn't make shots. That's frustrating because most of the shots we took, we normally make them. We had some nice looks tonight, but they just didn't drop."
One could argue Thursday's performance being a courageous one for the Jazz. They were a tired team, having beaten the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, and were playing the world champions without two starters in Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood. Cleveland blitzed the Jazz early, leading by as many as 14 points in the first half. Utah could've packed it in for the night and nobody would've blinked.
Instead, the Jazz fought back behind Rudy Gobert. The center was sensational, scoring 20 points, grabbing 19 rebounds, blocking two shots and plucking two steals. He willed the Jazz back into the game with his defense. Offensively, he went 10 of 13 in 36 minutes.
Down 38-24, the Jazz closed the first half on an 18-6 run to pull within 44-42 at halftime. Utah took several second-half leads, but couldn't hold any of its advantages.
Kyrie Irving served as James' sidekick with 21 points. Kevin Love returned from injury for the first time in a month and scored 10 points.
The Jazz received 13 points from Gordon Hayward and 12 points each from Joe Johnson and Joe Ingles. Utah falls to 43-26 on the season and loses for just the second time in eight games.
"I think every loss is a tough loss," Gobert said. "This one was frustrating because it was right there for the taking."