The Utah Jazz (18-13), now losers of three straight, dropped another one at home. Tonight it was the Toronto Raptors (21-8) who rode into town, collected the first win on their six game road trip, and left up 104-98. In the first quarter both teams were trading punches. Utah was able to implement a defense that kept Kyle Lowry scoreless in the first 12 minutes of the game. And Quin Snyder’s club catapulted that success into a one point first quarter lead.
I’d like to say it’s because Rodney Hood was back, healthy, and helping the team. But that’s not the case, he was just back. I’m not singling him out here or anything, when Utah’s not at full strength it’s hard to compete against a hardened playoff team that wins and advances in the post-season. And the Raptors, somehow, are that. That somehow, by the way, is their guard play. And together Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to blast the Jazz defense for 60 points while getting to the line a combined 9 total times. That’s a lot of made shots. And these were shots off the bounce, at the rim, off of post ups, spot up shots, and fade-aways. These two players know how to score, and did so despite the great individual and team defense on them at times.
This is what All-Stars do -- they step up and take control of games. Lowry absolutely did that tonight. Yes, no George Hill and no Dante Exum (and no Alec Burks, whom we may have forgotten used to be brought in to play defense against point guards) . . . but at some point you have to start winning games against good guards. The league is kind of filled with them right now.
Utah did fight back down double-digits to take the lead in this game going into the fourth quarter. (Yes, another time where the Jazz lose at home after being up after three quarters. It is a new sensation.) Gordon Hayward played well, but once again couldn’t hit from the outside. (He and Hood combined to shoot 1/9 from downtown. This simply isn’t good enough for this system that the head coach is running that relies on threes.) Rudy Gobert had another double double, but no blocks. (Only Derrick Favors and Hayward registered blocks tonight.)
One bright spot was Trey Lyles playing big for a national TV audience in Canada, and scoring 19 points off the bench, including four threes, 7 rebounds, a nice dunk, and he was a +10 in +/-. Of course, DeRozan should have probably thrown out of the game in the 3rd quarter for what he did to him . . . but whatever.
Utah had a chance to win this game, but once again in crunch time the team who wanted it more was Toronto. And Toronto has played and won a bunch of important games (back-to-back seven game series in the East 2nd round and East Finals last year with this core).
I don’t think Utah was expected to win tonight. And they did not. They will be expected to excise this three game losing streak by winning the next three. And they should have a good chance to do that, @ Los Angeles Lakers, vs. Philadelphia 76ers, vs. Phoenix Suns. And that’s it for 2016!