After a disappointing loss in the nation’s capitol, there is serendipity that the Utah Jazz now find themselves playing the
Tampa Toronto Bay Raptors. Three years ago the Jazz—reeling from bad losses and inconsistency—rediscovered their identity and made course corrections that changed the trajectory of their season in a game against the Raptors. Utah will be looking to find some of that same magic as they battle Toronto in a much warmer Tampa climate than in 2018.
While the Raptors are not the championship contenders they once were, the Jazz are certainly better than the team that had Ricky Rubio and Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup. Utah is still clinging onto first place in the NBA despite going 2-2 since All-Star Break. The offensive buzzsaw that Utah had become in the 1st half of the season has lost power. Four games into the second half, Utah ranks only as the 10th best offense and as one of the 10 worst defensive teams in the league. They’ve become a train wreck on the defensive end.
If there is comfort to be had, it’s that the Raptors have been far worse. They are 0-4 since All-Star break and are a bottom 10 team both offensively and defensively. The Raptors have lost to the likes of Detroit, Chicago, and Charlotte. They’ve been awful. Toronto is now on a six game losing streak and have won only once in their last nine games. Trade rumors are swirling around Kyle Lowry and the team is distracted.
Put plainly, this is the team Utah must bury in a blowout win no matter who is healthy or out for the Utah Jazz. Any other result will be extremely disappointing and worrisome.
When: 6:00 PM MST
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
TV: AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain
Radio: 97.5 FM/1280 AM
What to watch for
Will the Utah Jazz find some self respect?
Rudy Gobert made some really strong comments after last night’s loss.
“We have to realize we haven’t accomplished sh*t. We get upset when people laugh at us on TV and disrespect us, but it’s on us to have respect for ourselves and understand that we’re not the champions.”
Fittingly, Rudy may not be available tonight due to a hip contusion. So Utah may have to right the ship on their own without Rudy Gobert. While that seems like a terrible thing to miss Gobert, Utah has been built a reliance on him that is borderline toxic. Utah’s perimeter defense has been a train wreck so instead of Gobert being able to raise Utah’s ceiling on defense, he’s force to hold up the floor. Imagine Gobert as Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and the rest of the Jazz waiting back in Greece eagerly with a bucket of water.
In minutes without Gobert, Utah relies on a barrage of scoring and three pointers from Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, and Georges Niang. Why? Because Derrick Favors hasn’t been very Derrick Favors this season. When he's on the floor, Utah’s defensive rating goes from 105.8 points per 100 possessions to 114.0 points per 100 possessions. It’s a huge drop off.
When Rudy Gobert comes off the floor, teams have been going on runs more and more. Here’s how those Rudy Gobert-less minutes have gone for Utah.
vs Washington, four times off the floor:
Total Swing = -15 points
vs Boston, four times off the floor:
Total Swing = -6 points
vs Golden State, four times off the floor:
Total Swing = -21 points
vs Houston, four times off the floor
Total Swing = +4
The results against Houston, Golden State, and Washington are alarming. Yes, Washington is on a hot streak, but their bench is weak. Houston is a train wreck and Utah’s bench couldn’t provide any separation. Golden State’s bench put a whooping on Utah and so did Boston. This is atrocious. Being without Gobert for a few games while incredibly challenging could remind the rest of the Jazz’s roster just how much acne and blemishes Gobert cover ups.