The Utah Jazz (28-10) put on some heroics in a road win over the Nuggets, playing their sixth game in nine days, four of them on the road in San Antonio, Portland, New Orleans, and Denver. It looks like this has lead to some serious wear and tear as the Jazz start a brutal Eastern Conference road trip against the Toronto Raptors (18-17) (Pacers Saturday, Pistons Monday). Seriously - check out these two tweets:
Jazz injury report continued 2/2:— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) January 6, 2022
OUT - Joe Ingles (Health & Safety Protocols)
OUT - Rudy Gobert (Health & Safety Protocols)
OUT - Mike Conley (Right Knee Injury Recovery)
OUT - Bojan Bogdanovic (Left Middle Finger Sprain)
OUT - Donovan Mitchell (Left Low Back Strain)
It totally makes sense that even “load management” let alone lingering injury would put some of the Jazz players on the bench. Even so, if all players listed as questionable are in fact out for this game, the Jazz would only have 7 active players - Trent Forrest, Elijah Hughes, Malik Fitts, Eric Paschall, and Udoka Azuibuike, as well as recent 10-day hardship signees Danuel House and Norvel Pelle - exactly the NBA minimum of number to conduct a game. We’ll assume that most of the questionable guys will see some time, though it may be limited. I think this game will be interesting to check out what the Jazz have in their deep bench and get everyone some development minutes. While this may put the Jazz’s insane 10 game road game winning streak in peril, all good things must come to an end eventually.
The Raptors are over .500 for the first time this season, riding a four game win streak to the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Their starters have really done well, all averaging over 15 points per game - three of them (VanVleet - 21.3 ppg, Siakam - 20.4 ppg, Anunoby - 19.3) hovering around the 20 points per game mark. Rookie Scottie Barnes has hung very well as a rock in the rotation in spite of the fact that the Raptors have played 21 different players through a COVID-strained season (the Raptors had 10 players in the NBA’s health and safety protocol on Dec. 26) - outside of his scoring, his numbers basically match or better those of Siakam’s this year.
They don’t really have a traditional center (starting either Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, or Precious Achiuwa) depending on the matchup, but the length and switchability of their lineup will be a great test for the Jazz. This will be one of the few games of the season where Toronto’s entire starting lineup is available and ready to play, so we’ll see how they handle the Jazz who decidedly do not have that.
When: 5:30 PM MT
Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario
TV: AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain (allegedly), Toronto Sports Network
Radio: KZNS/KTUB, CJCL
Projected Starting Lineups
Utah: Honestly, who knows? Probably something like G: Trent Forrest G: Jordan Clarkson F: Royce O’Neale F: Eric Paschall C: Hassan Whiteside (h/t Tony Jones)
Toronto: G: Fred VanVleet G: Gary Trent Jr. F: Scottie Barnes F: OG Anunoby C: Pascal Siakam
What to watch for
The Small Ball lineup
We’re definitely going to see a lot of small ball tonight. Rudy Gay was stellar with 18 points and 7 rebounds and a team high +14 against the Nuggets. Eric Paschall shined in limited minutes, with incredibly active defense. We also almost certainly will see a good dose of Jared Butler minutes tonight as well! With the Raptors not starting a traditional center (and really only having one, Khem Birch, playing about 20 minutes a game in only about half of their games so far), it will be interesting to see how the Jazz can lean into the flexibility that Rudy Gay talked about.
Eric Paschall good defense vs. Nikola Jokic pic.twitter.com/Q06ZPxFV2H— Jeremy (@NBA_Jeremy1) January 6, 2022
“Conley, Mitchell, Bogey, Gobert, Ingles all out vs Toronto.”— Mychal (@My_Lo) January 6, 2022
What fans see vs What Clarkson sees pic.twitter.com/DKVHt7QJNQ
If Jordan plays tonight, this tweet really says it all.
Pascal Siakam was a diamond in the rough hewed by the Raptors’ development program, going from raw prospect to All-NBA Second Team and All-Star in just five seasons. He’s been slightly less impactful the last two seasons as time off due to injury and the Raptors losing key parts of their championship team has led to the team not being quite as dominant. With that said, look out for Siakam’s play with rumors swirling around the Jazz’s Ingles and Bogdanovic.