Joe Ingles is having a mighty fine 31st birthday. He not only returned to the court after missing the Jazz’s first preseason game, but he was able to lead the Utah Jazz to victory with a game high 24 points. The Utah Jazz beat the Toronto Raptors 105-90. Though Utah was able to coast to a 15 point victory, it wasn’t exactly 48 minutes of strong basketball. Utah had the luxury of not having to deal with Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry for the entire second half.
In this first quarter the Utah Jazz were able to control the game and lead for much of the quarter. Turnovers, though, became a problem in the 2nd quarter as Utah turned the ball over 9 times. Utah’s bench also struggled in the 2nd quarter as Utah went from having a 31-25 lead in the 1st quarter to only scoring 18 points in the 2nd and surrendering 33 points to the Raptors. Much of that had to do with Utah’s bench that dug Utah’s starters a monstrous hole to dig out of. Utah’s starters then came in and continued the turnover woes.
Utah got their first crack at elite NBA competition tonight and the Kawhi/Lowry show did not disappoint. Kawhi Leonard looked like his former MVP self scoring 17 points and pulling down 5 rebounds in only 18 minutes. What’s even scarier was he could have had 21 points in 18 minutes had he only hit his free throws. The Toronto Raptors could be scary good if that Kawhi Leonard shows up this season. Kyle Lowry, while not hitting shots, was still pushing the tempo and setting his guys up. He left the game with a +/- +3.
After halftime, Quin Snyder decided to leave his starters in for the third quarter while Toronto’s head coach, Nick Nurse, started the second half without any of his starters on the court. Utah capitalized on Toronto’s renown “bench mob” and went on a big run led by Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio. Joe Ingles hit two threes and got to the line for two FTs. In what is a promising sign for Rubio’s outside shooting, Rubio also hit two threes on his way to 10 points in the quarter. Donovan Mitchell may not have been scoring in bunches, but he was setting up his teammates in the third. By the fourth quarter, Utah was in control and was able to clear the bench for their soon to be Salt Lake City Stars players.
[Sidenote: Mitchell in the preseason has displayed a heightened court awareness. He looks like he’s looking for his teammates more instead of putting his head down and getting buckets; this might be more of a preseason assignment for Mitchell by the coaching staff. Right now it’s important not to get too worried about Mitchell’s scoring less in the preseason. Now is the perfect time to work on weaknesses in game situations without the consequences of an addition to the loss column.]
I said in the last game recap, there was literally nothing to take away from the game against the Perth Wildcats because it wasn’t NBA competition, not even close. Tonight, though, we can look into some interesting signs.
Let’s first pour some ice water on the Grayson Allen hype train. While it was fun to see Grayson Allen lighting it up against Perth, Allen got a real taste of NBA basketball by one of the best benches in the NBA in Toronto. Grayson struggled in the first half, going 0-4 from the field, with only a steal and a turnover to show for his time on the floor. He did get it going in the 4th quarter, but by that point he was playing Toronto’s 11th-16th players on the Raptors’ bench. It was good that he was able to learn, but a lot of people out there need to pump the brakes on the rook. This isn’t going to be another surprise rookie like Mitchell. He’ll be fine, but manage your expectations.
If anyone was worried about Joe Ingles’ injury holding him back or Father Time starting to catch up to Joe Ingles on his 31st birthday, you can throw away your fears. Joe Ingles had a marvelous game and looked like the 3 point specialist we know and love. One promising development is how many threes Joe Ingles attempted: 11. Last year Joe Ingles took on average 5.7 threes a game. If Joe Ingles takes even just 3 more a game that’s an additional 3.7 points a game. If he’s up to 11, then watch out. [Disclaimer: he won’t take 11 a game, but 8-9 attempts a game is definitely attainable.]
Ricky Rubio shooting threes and making 50% of them is definitely something to be excited about. Both games combined Ricky Rubio is shooting 44.4% from three. If Rubio shoots above 40% all preseason then the Utah Jazz coaching staff has once again found a diamond in the rough. Ricky Rubio’s PER36 in two games is interesting as it shows less of a focus on assists and more on scoring: 18.1 ppg, 5.4 apg, and 3.6 rpg on 44.4% shooting from three. One worrying sign is the turnovers. For every assist Rubio makes this preseason, he turns the ball over once. He has a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio so far. Not great.
The Utah Jazz’s pace with their starters is ... insanely fast right now. In the 1st quarter with their starters, the Utah Jazz had a pace of 128.56 possessions. In the third it slowed down to 108.96. Over the course of the entire game, Utah played at a 108.96 possession pace. It’s just one game, but keep in mind Utah averaged a pace of 98.75. Once again, only one game, but this is definitely something worth monitoring because it can help their offense get easier buckets. Utah already has the 6th best offensive rating in preseason with a 107.0 ORTG. Just two games, but something to monitor none the less.
Utah will play its next game on Friday against the Adelaide 36ers in Salt Lake City.