Gay was magnificent shooting 7/8 from the field and 5/6 from three. He also put the ball and the floor and punished smaller defenders by going to the rim. His size was really one of the most impressive factors with his time on the floor. Gay is huge and can either shoot over the top of a smaller defender or overpower them inside.
The defensive presence is already apparent. There was a real difference on the floor when Gay was on the defensive end. He rebounds and uses his length and size to close lanes and defend on the perimeter. Now, he’s not likely going to shoot 5/6 from 3 every night, but this type of impact on both ends of the floor is going to power the Jazz to a lot of wins. And they needed it. The Jazz had looked lifeless for a week or two and this might be the thing that wakes them up.
It is worth noting that without Rudy Gay this one might have gone sideways. It was a close game through three quarters and Donovan Mitchell, who has been having a career year, really struggled. Mitchell had 1 assist to 6 turnovers which is probably his worst night of the year. Toronto deserves some credit here. They’re a stingy defense and get a ton of deflections and time after time Mitchell tried to split their switches. But the length of the Raptors created a bunch of turnovers. With this being the first time they’ve played, it’s likely Mitchell will adjust for the next matchup like he always does. But it’s something to watch.
Joe Ingles finally had a big night for the Jazz. After an uncomfortable confrontation with Mitchell on a turnover, he turned it on and rolled off probably his best sequence of the season. Maybe he just needed Donovan Mitchell to get angry at him to make it happen?
Getting Joe Ingles back to impacting games would be huge for the Jazz. When Ingles is good, the Jazz win a lot of games. That’s the type of analytics that checks out in any math class, even that time I had to retake Geometry. For the night Ingles shot 4/8 from the field and 2/6 from three but it was his 8 assists that carved up the Raptors.
Finally, credit needs to be given to the Jazz’s third leading scorer, Royce O’Neale, who went 6/8 from the field and 4/6 from three. O’Neale has been fantastic this year playing at an all-defense level. Combine that with his confidence on the offensive end as well as in transition and the Jazz have a guy who’s made a serious jump. If the Jazz can get another perimeter defender at the trade deadline to play alongside O’Neale, they’re going to be really good defensively, maybe even title contenders. With Rudy Gay in this lineup, it definitely makes that seem more possible.