Can the Utah Jazz Dethrone the King in SLC Once Again?

Mar 14, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) saves the ball from going out of bounds in the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) saves the ball from going out of bounds in the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

After defeating LeBron James five straight times in Salt Lake City, the Utah Jazz will look to push that streak to six on Tuesday night.

This upcoming Tuesday night the Utah Jazz will have the daunting task of hosting LeBron James and the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who currently hold a 28-8 record, good for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Of course that’s the kind of record one would expect from a team that has the guy that many consider the best player in the world. LeBron and the Cavs have been a dominant force this season and could very well find themselves in position to win a second straight NBA title in 2017.

Last season, the Cavaliers pulled off an amazing comeback in the NBA Finals to defeat the Warriors after trailing three games to one. It was an incredible performance that has served as one of the defining moments in James’ career.

And that’s saying a lot, especially considering that in his time with the Miami Heat and his second stint with the Cavs, James has appeared in six straight NBA Finals, winning three of them.

However, while carrying his team to the Finals year after year has been an accomplishment that has become almost a tradition for him, one area where he has struggled significantly during that stretch has been winning games in Salt Lake City, where he’s lost five straight games.

OK, I’m fully aware that it’s probably not that big of a deal to him considering that he’s been hoisting championship trophies while the Jazz have watched on TV, but still I’m sure a competitor like LeBron is anxious to disprove any perceived weakness, even one as small as winning in Salt Lake, that his opponents might have.

Yet, while it doesn’t hold a candle to what James has done in recent years, it’s still pretty impressive that Utah has found a way to beat him five years running on their home court, including in the 2013-14 season when Utah finished dead last in the Western Conference with a record of just 25-57. While the Jazz have brought fans lots of disappointment over the past five years, at least their five contests against LeBron James-led teams have been pretty exciting.

To recap, in the 2011-12 season, the Utah Jazz defeated LeBron and the Heat 99-98 thanks to a clutch and-one floater by Devin Harris late in the game:

Complete side note, but if you watch the video above it’s pretty ironic that one of the commentators claims that Gordon Hayward’s impressive block could be the last of his career. Sure it was a little sarcastic, but boy was he wrong. Hayward has turned into an excellent and underrated defender known for rundown blocks.

Once we get to the 2014-15 season contest, Hayward will show off yet another one of his impressive blocks on none other than LeBron James himself.

Anyway, now back to our recaps. In 2012-13, the Utah Jazz overcame a ferocious comeback by the Heat to hold on to win 104-97 against LeBron James:

In 2013-14, the Utah Jazz took advantage of an off night from LeBron, then rookie Trey Burke hit a dagger late in the game to seal the deal and send the Jazz to a 94-89 victory:

In 2014-15, LeBron’s first year back with the Cavaliers, the Utah Jazz pulled off one of their most memorable wins in recent seasons as Gordon Hayward nailed a buzzer beater to send the Jazz to a 102-100 win. Oh yeah, and that block I mentioned? Check it out here as well:

Finally, last season was one of the more surprising Jazz wins in SLC over LeBron as they took down his Cavaliers team 94-85 despite Gordon Hayward being sidelined due to injury:

So as you can see, Salt Lake City has been far from kind to LeBron James in recent years. Of course it’s hardly been his fault as James has played well in nearly every contest, but give credit to the Jazz for containing LeBron and his teammates for so many straight games.

Yet in a the mantra of “What have you done for me lately?” the question is will the Jazz be able to take care of business yet again this season and hand LeBron his sixth straight loss in Salt Lake?

The knee-jerk reaction would be to say that it’s unlikely that the Jazz are able to do so yet again as the run has gone on long enough, but that’s also been a common response for the last number of years.

The last two years the Cavs have taken on Utah in the midst of a grueling road trip and it’s possible that fatigue could have been a major factor contributing to LeBron’s defeat. This season, while the game on Tuesday is technically during a five-game Western road trip for the Cavs, it comes as just the second game of the trip and with a day of rest beforehand.

Thus LeBron and Co. will likely be fresh and more than ready to squelch any rumors that the King’s domain doesn’t extend into the confines of Vivint Smart Home Arena.

The new year has not been kind to the Jazz as they’ve gone 2-3 in 2017 and come into Tuesday’s game with a 23-16 record. After their recent struggles on their five-game road trip and most noticeably in Sunday’s discouraging loss to the Grizzlies, Utah will have to step up their game in a big way if they hope to earn a sixth straight win over LeBron James and defeat his red hot Cavs team.

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But if history is any indication, it means that this Jazz team can’t be counted out, especially on their home court. Although the Jazz are undeniable underdogs, their never-say-die attitude, relentless defense and of course this year’s veteran additions are sure to make for a competitive game.

And while their previous success over LeBron by no means guarantees a win, it should at least instill the Jazz with plenty of confidence and a determination to once again dethrone the King on their home court.

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