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Game 16 – January 25, 2012: Toronto Raptors @ Utah Jazz

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I love it when the Utah Jazz and the Toronto Raptors play. And I also hate it. When I was a kid, and living in Canada in the pre-internet / pre-league pass days it was one of the only times outside of the playoffs where I could see the Jazz on TV. Today, it’s a situation where I feel bad for Canada’s team getting killed over and over again. The Canadian media (and many fans) grew up learning to understand, appreciate, and respect the Jazz as a result. (Don’t believe me? See how a Canadian beat writer reveres the team Jerry Sloan built, or how Canadian bloggers also point out when we’re doing great.) I don’t sense that the admiration goes both ways across the border – even our beat writers would rather make up some crazy story about their passport than head north to cover a Raptors game. (Hee hee hee) The Raptors aren’t the perfect team, but they have a number of good players – they recently beat the Phoenix Suns, and before that the Minnesota Timberwolves. They’ve had a horrible schedule filled with numerous road games. On the flip side we’ve experienced the opposite, home game after home game. One could argue that the Jazz aren’t as good as their record; and by the same token, perhaps the Raptors aren’t as bad as theirs is? If either of those statements are valid then we’ll be in for a good game tonight.

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Sight Reading:

On paper this looks like a decisive advantage for the Utah Jazz. Our offense is coming around (#11 in PPG, #12 in point differential, #11 in offensive rating), and our defense only allows 0.7 ppg more than the other team does. The Raptors, on the other hand, are having a number of struggles on offense. This is the only time these two teams will play one another this season, so it’s not like we’ll get a chance to make it up if we drop this game. Toronto’s offense isn’t fantastic, but if they can slow down the pace and keep the game close they have a number of guys who are legit NBA scoring options (Andrea Bargnani, Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza, and DeMar DeRozan for starters…). Furthermore, Jose Calderon is averaging 8.8 apg. And this team is super slow (24th slowest pace). That means he’s doing a great job distributing the ball in the halfcourt. If the Raptors sped it up Jose would average over 10 apg easily.

I think this game is going to be won or lost in the paint. Both teams are Top 10 in blocked shots. The Jazz don’t turn the ball over much, so it’s not likely that the Raptors will get easy, fast break buckets. And the Raptors don’t get lit up from the outside, forcing other teams into shooting in the very low 40 fg% range. Lastly, the Raptors are 7th best this season in defensive rebounds, and 7th best this season in total rebounds. Contrasting that, the Jazz are 2nd best at NOT giving the other team a lot of total rebounds. Things are going to get mucky inside as both teams have a penchant for being whistled for fouls. It will be messy, indeed.

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Much more info after the jump!

Recapitulation:

These teams haven’t played each other yet this season, the Jazz have won the last 12 games against the Raptors... like we talked about here, there have been about 2600 days pass since the last time the Raptors beat the Jazz.

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The Beats and the Rests:

According to this, the Raptors have much better players than we do. Statistically could very well be true, however I think our team is greater than the sum of its’ individual parts. Also, I think we have more bench depth as well. James Johnson and Aaron Gray are new additions to their starting line-ups, but bring a number of great hustle plays to their teams. I’m interested to see what they can do out there.

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Soloists:

I think both fan bases would actually love to see something out of DeMar DeRozan and Gordon Hayward; however, it’s going to be yet another Paul Millsap vs. the world show. (Is he Scott Pilgrim?) Tonight’s PF du jour is Andrea Bargnani – who is outscoring Millsap and has a much more recognized inside-outside game.

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The Remix:

In previous seasons the Raptors were a much more potent club that could run and gun against any team in the league, they had a speedy attack, and lots of three point shooters . . . this year’s squad appears much more equipped for the Eastern Conference’s grind-it-out game. They have a number of big guys who are bangers, and they are not afraid to foul people in the paint. In a way, this year’s Raptors teams are like a number of post-Stockton and Malone Jazz teams.

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Liner Notes:

  • Everyone is pretty much healthy for both teams!
  • Big Al will not play tonight
  • The Raptors are without their 1st round, pick #5 rookie: Jonas Valanciunas; who will join the team next season. Some speculate one of the reasons why the Jazz took Enes Kanter instead of Jonas was because of the curious contract situation Jonas has.

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