Tonight the Utah Jazz will attempt to stop the bleeding, and get their first win in, gosh, 15 or so days. It's not going to be easy, as they'll face the Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors. The Raptors, who have 14 wins already, are 5-2 on the road, and will look to finish their quick Western road trip with another win tonight. (They lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 129-122, and beat the Sacramento Kings 117-109) They've been playing the last two games without their most overt star, the high flying DeMar DeRozan. [
DeRozan, like Gordon Hayward, was a late cut for the USA Basketball program this summer leading up to the FIBA World Cup 2014. <-- This statement is factually incorrect, thanks comment section!] Because the world on this temporal plane, is all about balance, the Jazz will be without Alec Burks. Utah is going to start Rodney Hood in his place, while the Raptors are bringing their do it all combo guard Greivis Vasquez to the tip off.
The Raptors are still dangerous without DeRozan, obviously. They play at the 10th fastest pace in the league, and a big part of that is their HUGE reliance upon playing this funny thing called defense. They get 8.2 steals per game (NBA Rank #6), 4.7 bpg game (NBA Rank #13), and 15.3% of every possession they have on defense results in a turn over (NBA Rank #3). The turn overs result in fast break opportunities, and they have the athletes to run all day. They average 108.9 PPG this season (2nd best in the NBA), and have the second best offense overall at 115.1 OFF RTG. The boast a Top 10 defense too, giving up just 105.0 PTS / 100 (DEF RTG). They are a complete team looking to weather the storm of DeRozan's injury. Two big reasons why are Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas.
Lowry is a pick and roll maestro, and he's averaging nearly 20 ppg, and the head of the snake for this team. If you stop him you may have a chance to win. For a team that only has four losses, it's clear that not many teams have. There is a ton of beef around with Amir Johnson, Jonas, James Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes, Lucas Nogueira, and Greg Stiemsma there to set screen after screen for him, endlessly.
They have legit off the bench offensive threats in Louis Williams and Patterson. And Patterson is just one of many stretch bigs on their squad. They will pick and pop, and Dwane Casey has everyone on the same page. They are a good team. A team worthy of a Dinosaur name.
The Jazz are having their struggles on defense, so playing the #2 offensive team in the league is going to be fun. Utah is now in the bottom half of the league in clearing their own glass, don't sent anyone to the line, hardly force a turn over, and other teams are shooting .522 against us (eFG%).
But we do have a bunch of guys who can catch fire -- we're going to need Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, and Derrick Favors to step up. They were our big three in the preseason, and played great. I know the Jazz aren't afraid of the Raptors -- I would like them to demonstrate that by having a good first quarter. For once.
- DeMar DeRozan (TOR) is out with a torn left adductor longus tendon
- Alec Burks (UTA) is out with a left shoulder inflammation
- Jeremy Evans (UTA) is doubtful with a left ankle sprain
With the injuries it's likely that both coaches will do some tinkering. The Jazz have had almost everyone healthy for each game, but now Quin Snyder's adjustments will be big going forward. If the Raptors continue to do what they do, and keep two ball handlers out on the court, it would be fun to see the Jazz do the same.
Both of these teams match up well with size, but play in different hemispheres. It should be a fun game none-the-less.
Frankly, I can't lose because I'm a Canadian Utah Jazz fan. But more seriously, it's not about wins or losses here. It's game to game improvements for our players, and identification of things to work on going forward.
It's a learning year. And tonight our team will be in school.