LeBron James Has High Praise for Utah Jazz Following Cavs Victory

Mar 16, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts in the third quarter against the Utah Jazz at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts in the third quarter against the Utah Jazz at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

Following the Cleveland victory over the Utah Jazz, LeBron James had some high praise for his opponents, praising them as one of the league’s great teams.

The Utah Jazz came into last night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on the second night of a back-to-back while missing two of their starters, but they still were able to give the Cavs everything they could handle.

After a back and forth three quarters, the game was knotted up at 67 heading into the fourth. The Jazz took a few brief leads in the final stanza, but ultimately LeBron James caught fire, scoring 17 of his 33 total points in the fourth to lead Cleveland to a grind-out 91-83 victory.

While it wasn’t necessarily a game that the Jazz were expected to win, the final outcome still ended up coming as somewhat of a disappointment as they played well for most of the contest and truly put themselves in a situation to come away victorious.

Sure, Utah was down two starters, but the Cavs were also without Kyle Korver and Derrick Williams, then Iman Shumpert and Kyrie Irving left the game with minor afflictions while Kevin Love who was in his first game back from injury was on a tight minutes restriction.

But the fact of the matter is, sometimes just having LeBron James on the court is enough to get it done. Such was the case last night for Cleveland.

And while Rudy Gobert shined for Utah with 20 points and 19 rebounds, Gordon Hayward struggled mightily as he finished just 4-of-14 from the field and was unable to out-duel LeBron as he did in the prior contest in Salt Lake.

In some ways I feel as if I might have jinxed the Jazz All-Star after the high praise I gave him yesterday, particularly noticing how crazy effective he’s been on the second nights of back-to-backs prior to last night’s bout, but let’s not get into that.

Instead, let’s get into the awesome comments from LeBron James following the game. While James is revered by some and perceived as a villain by others, regardless of any opinion of him there’s simply no denying his basketball prowess.

And when he shows respect for a player or a team, the basketball world definitely notices. Fortunately for the Jazz, they were the subject of such praise last night.

Despite a showing that was less impressive than what this Utah team is capable of, LeBron James still showed them some immense respect by saying the following in his post-game comments:

"“That’s a great team… A lot of people don’t know because they don’t play on national TV…but that’s a great team.”"

Jazz fans have known this truth for quite some time now, especially of late as Utah has been playing quite well, but as LeBron mentioned, given Utah’s small market status and overall lack of recognition on national media, many casual fans don’t even realize that the Jazz are well on their way to home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Therefore, it was incredible for them to receive such acclaim from the best player in the league as he clearly recognizes what a sound and talented group is developing in Utah. Not to mention, it was a nice turnaround from LeBron’s wishy-washy response regarding Gordon Hayward’s All-Star status following the Cleveland loss in Salt Lake City:

So even though last night turned out to be a tough loss, it wasn’t all that unexpected given the tough circumstances facing the Jazz. And at least now there’s a silver lining to the defeat as it appears that even King James has begun to #TakeNote of this Jazz team.

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Utah has two games left on this current road trip, at Chicago on Saturday and at Indiana on Monday. Given the inconsistencies of both of those teams and (aside from a poor fourth quarter last night) how well the Jazz have been playing recently, they should still be in great shape to finish the trip with a 3-1 record.

And given that the Los Angeles Clippers helped out the Jazz once again by losing last night to the Denver Nuggets, Utah maintains a firm hold on the fourth seed in the West for now with a three-game lead.

While a win over the East-leading Cavs would have been impressive, Utah is still in a great position in the playoff race and has to feel good about garnering such high respect of one of the all-time greatest players in the game.

Now all they have left to do is justify his words by finishing the season strong and making some noise come playoff time.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com