The Utah Jazz have had a bumpy Thanksgiving road trip. They are 1-2 with their sole win coming against a rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies team. That win required a spirited second half comeback and Bojan Bogdanovic scoring 30 points for the second time in as many games. Utah’s task this afternoon will not be an easy one. Less than 48 hours after struggling with the Grizzlies (in Vancouver attire ironically), the Jazz will go to Memphis’ sister expansion franchise Toronto to take on a Raptors team that has not skipped a beat despite losing arguably the best player in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard.
The parallels between Utah and Toronto are a bit eerie. Toronto last year abandoned continuity and made big changes by trading one of their franchise players (and other youth) in order to acquire two elite NBA wings in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. This year Utah abandoned continuity by going after Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic while sacrificing a franchise mainstay in Derrick Favors and forsaking Ricky Rubio and other more youthful pieces.
While Toronto’s experiment paid immediate dividends as they blazed to a quick start to the season by going 15-4 in their first 19 games, the Utah Jazz are struggling to get traction offensively—and strangely enough—defensively in the last couple weeks. Toronto as this point last season had become the 5th best offense and 6th best defense in the league thanks to their new additions and young players like Pascal Siakam stepping up. Utah finds themselves 19 games into the season as the league’s 21st rated offense and 6th best defense and in the last two weeks they rate as the #18 in offense and #14 in defense. Not exactly the best progress. Utah has struggled with injuries, but every team has to face their struggles and as far as injuries go, this season has been Utah’s healthiest start to the season.
Utah will hope that shot selection does not continue to be the drum they have to beat into their players’ heads night after night. Utah continues to take one of the league’s highest percentage of shots (22.4%) in the dreaded short midrange (4-14 feet) where they are only averaging 35.7% FG% which is 5th worst in the Association. In the last two weeks, that shot profile has remained the same and hasn’t appeared to change.
The Jazz have a big task of slowing down Pascal Siakam. He is averaging 25.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists with shooting splits of 46/37/80. He’s a beast. Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and Jeff Green will have their hands full trying to slow down Spicy P (we can all agree that his nickname needs some work).
The good news for the Jazz is they seem to step up against top tier teams. They are 5-5 against teams .500 or better. While their offense hasn’t been top tier against those teams (103.1 offensive rating), they have been able to mire opposing offenses in the same mudpit their offense appears to be trapped in. If Utah can bring their top tier defense tonight with Bogey cooking again, Jazz could pull off the upset.
When: Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019 • 6:00 PM ET
Where: Scotiabank Arena • Toronto, Ontario, Canada
TV: AT&T Sports Net Rocky Mountain, SN1
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
What To Watch For
January 26, 2018 - A game that transformed two teams
The more I look back on this game from almost two years ago, the more I think it set the course for these two franchises. That win in Toronto turned Utah’s season around. That game, the Utah Jazz found their identity in the cold Tundra of Canada. The Jazz fought, scraped, and clawed their way to a win off a miraculous Ricky Rubio three. They would go 27-6 to finish the year. The Raptors, fuming after such a terrible loss, would finish the season 27-8. Both met their end in the second round of the playoffs, but it catalyzed both teams for that season.
Utah once again travels to Toronto in winter—albeit in the beginning of it. Utah is struggling to find their identity once again. Luckily, this year, Utah doesn’t find themselves 7 games below .500 like in 2017-2018. But they are seeing a similar offensive trend. They entered that game as the 24th ranked offense and 8th best defense. Today they enter it as the 21st ranked offense and 6th best defense. Utah is pulling out victories, but that season is a cold hard message that Utah’s current +.500 record is in danger if they don’t continue to improve offensively.
The Raptors entered that game as the 4th and 5th best offense and defense. Today they enter it as the 5th and 6th best offense and defense. After that game, Utah went on to play as the league’s 9th best offense and the league’s best defense period for the remainder of their games. The Raptors would be the league’s 2nd best offense and 8th best defense.
Here’s to hoping, this game in Toronto helps Utah find their identity for this season.
Bojan The Best
Pass the damn rock to Bojan. I really don’t even have to type another word in this paragraph. The man is on fire. He’s averaging 22.1 points a game on shooting splits of 49/47/87. If anything the rest of my typed words should be devoted to whether he deserves to be Utah’s #1 option and Donovan slide into a Dwyane Wade-Miami role and become the second banana. Bojan is on another level and he’s doing it with ease right now. Pass him the rock. PLEASE.
Mike Conley - Trial Period Over, $2.7M/month for Mike Conley subscription
We’re approaching the point of the season where the Utah Jazz may want to go back to Memphis and ask them where the real Mike Conley is. Conley is currently averaging career lows in all areas except floaters where he’s shooting more of them while averaging less shots per game total. His percentages have dropped across the board and some nights he looks confused by the offense (which this may mean the finger should be pointed at the teacher rather than the student).
Despite all that the Jazz’s offense runs better with him out there and the defense is stingier with him on the court. It’s not that the Jazz are BAD with Mike Conley on the court, they’re actually their best. The problem lies in that the Jazz were expecting to be ELITE when he was on the court. When Mike is separated from Rudy Gobert or Bojan Bogdanovic, his numbers drop quite a bit. Conley not being able to be THE GUY in bench lineups or when other starters are struggling limits Utah’s top end.
What’s ironic about today is the player Conley may play against today, Kyle Lowry (listed as doubtful), was someone Utah was rumored to be chasing if Gordon Hayward left them. Hayward extended his free agent travelpalooza so Utah never had a chance, but then during last year’s trade deadline, the Raptors flirted with the idea of a Kyle Lowry/Mike Conley swap. That was while Utah was aggressively targeting Conley as well. Both Utah and Toronto missed out as Memphis got cold feet. Lowry was a force in some of the NBA Finals games. Toronto just left with Marc Gasol which worked out well since he helped put a ring on it (Toronto).
Utah finally got Conley, but Toronto may be looking at Conley’s start to the season and thinking they dodged a bullet by sticking by Lowry.
Meanwhile, Mike Conley’s grace period of getting the benefit of the doubt is about to run out and he will soon be judged on his performance now rather than the default “give him just a little bit more time.”
when you fake out the camera guy #TakeNote | @BucketsOneale00 pic.twitter.com/fiA0ojEw2u— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 1, 2019
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