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Jazz edge out Raptors to advance in the West

Walker Kessler was a menace defensively, further limiting what few things the Toronto Raptors do well

Toronto Raptors v Utah Jazz
Walker Kessler seemed to contest everything around the rim when taking the floor
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz take down the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night in a high scoring affair: 131-128 as the final score.

The game was fun wire to wire, boasting big leads and a fair amount of see-sawing in the second half. It was an exciting contrasting of styles with the Jazz raining threes and the Raptors getting out on the break.

“Sky Walker” Kessler, Walker Kessler “Ranger”, [insert your favorite nickname for the rookie] was outstanding tonight and a key cog in the win. He passed the triple digit block milestone for the season to go along with his 17 points, 14 rebounds, 7 blocks, 1 assist, and 1 steal on 75% true shooting.

Kessler logged four of his seven blocks in the first quarter. He bothered multiple Raptors all night and while they adjusted throughout the game, he won the mental battle that proved fruitful throughout.

This performance on the heels of being selected to participate in the NBA’s Rising Stars competition over All-Star break here in Salt Lake City, a well-deserved honor.

The Raptors dominated the volume component of the game. Be it on the offensive glass or forcing turnovers, they lived up to their reputation as the league’s leader in generating extra possessions.

Utah coughed up the ball 16 times and Toronto snagged 25 offensive rebounds. Those opportunities turned into 37 points for the Raptors. As we saw tonight, a formula based heavily on volume can only get you so far.

Toronto Raptors v Utah Jazz
Lauri Markkanen drives on Scottie Barnes
Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The Jazz shot the ball quite well but it was living at the line that saved the game. They were led by Lauri Markkanen shooting 10-10 and Mike Conley going 9-9 on the night.

Let’s dive into some other fun points on the night:

  1. The Lauri Markkanen/Pascal Siakam duel was fun. Despite some similarities, their differences were on display. Siakam’s ability to self-create got the Raptors back into the game while Markkanen’s insane efficiency poised a massive hill to climb.
  2. Mike Conley yet again demonstrated why his name is floating around trade circles and why the Jazz are insisting on pick compensation. He finished with 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 8 assists.
  3. Malik Beasley continues to shoot the cover off the ball, sinking 4 threes to keep him in the top 5 of most player 3’s made in the league, despite largely playing bench minutes. His is also a popular name ahead of the Feb. 9th trade deadline.
  4. Second year star Scottie Barnes proved pretty underwhelming outside of his 14 rebounds. He secured 18 points, 3 assists, and a steal but on an abysmal 37.6% true shooting.

Let’s look at the 4-factor advantage stats to get a feel for the game as a whole:

eFG% advantage: +13.3
TOV% advantage: -8.1
OREB% advantage: -8.9
FTArate advantage: +14.9

This win puts the Jazz at 27-26, finding themselves tied with the Golden State Warriors for 8th in the West.

Looking ahead, the Jazz will turn their attention to the Atlanta Hawks who come to town in the second of this four game homestand. The Hawks are 25-26 on the season ranking 8th in the East.

It’s sure to be an interesting matchup with multiple storylines surrounding the contest, including Utah’s reported interest in John Collins and the proximity of the teams in the league standings.