I know Amar already did the recap of the last game, but here’s mine:
The team doesn’t have much time to dwell on this, though: The red-hot Toronto Raptors (20-8) roll into town today to face the injury-depleted Utah Jazz (18-12). Honestly, if you would have told me this summer that the Jazz would be 18-12 while also telling me that George Hill, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Dante Exum would miss as many games as they have so far, I would have laughed at you. Nobody expected the third and fourth-stringers to carry this team to many wins. Seriously, our most-used lineup looks like this:
PG: Shelvin Mack
SG: Joe Ingles
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Joe Johnson
C: Rudy Gobert
Not even the most optimistic Jazz fan would have predicted our current record through the first 30 games, yet here we are. If you follow me on Twitter (I don’t recommend it, but I guess I can’t stop you) you know that I’m not Mr. Happy Sunshine when it comes to this team, but I do think, if we want to be rational fans (which is an oxymoron, I know) we should cool it on the negativity just a hair.
That said, let’s look at the Raptors:
These guys are coming off of a 116-104 stomping of the hapless Brooklyn Nets, have won 8 of their last 10 games, and haven’t lost any game by more than 8 points. They are #2 in the Eastern Conference standings at the moment, and seem poised to make some noise in the playoffs come April. With a 95.1 pace, (95 possessions per 48 minutes) the Raps are among the slowest in the league, ranking 20th. However, they score 112.3 points per game, good for 7th in the league. This is scary, because it means efficiency.
As far as lineups go, the edge seems to be with the boys from the north. Let’s take a look:
PG: Shelvin Mack vs. Kyle Lowry
Do we really need to hash this one out? No. Just no.
SG: Joe Ingles vs. Demar DeRozan
DeRozan is going to be an all-star again this season. He’s putting up 27.9 points, 4.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds. Ingles is having a nice season, with a line of 9.1/3.4/2.5 in the last ten games, but this will be a difficult matchup for him. It’s possible that Rodney could play, but I’m not holding my breath, and I don’t feel like trying to interpret the smoke signals that come from the Jazz brass right now.
SF: Gordon Hayward vs. DeMarre Carroll
I’m happy to see DeMarre doing so well, and I hope the Jazz faithful at Vivint give him a warm welcome (seriously, there are zero reasons to boo him). He’s been a good fit in Toronto, but there is no reason why he should beat Gordon Hayward.
PF: Boris Diaw vs. Pascal Siakam
I’m not too familiar with Siakam, but he has started all 28 games for the Raptors this season, ahead of Patrick Patterson and Jared Sullinger. I haven’t watched too much Raptors basketball, so I can’t tell you much about him, except that his offensive and defensive metrics are average, but he appears to be a moderately skilled rebounder. This is the type of matchup that the crafty Boris loves: a young guy that he can beat with his old man moves.
C: Rudy Gobert vs. Jonas Valanciunas
Valanciunas is a good player and a decent defensive center, but he’s no match for Rudy, who will probably be angry after losing to Sacramento. As a sidenote, I hope Rudy’s back is okay . . .
Here’s where I’m worried. One strength that the Jazz had at the beginning of the season was depth. Now, since a ton of guys are injured, that strength is gone. The Raptors are deep, with guys like Jakob Poeltl, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph coming off the bench.
I’m not saying that the Jazz have no chance here, but they have a daunting task in front of them. They’re going to have to get up from the punches they took against Golden State and Sacramento and find the fight that I haven’t really seen since they put a beating on the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 14th. If they can do that, they have a chance. If not, they’ll get blown out.
Edge: Toronto, 114-102