Jazz Fall To Raptors: How, Why And What It Means
TORONTO, Canada – The Utah Jazz had the worst first half in franchise history, and it was sparked by two enormous runs that showed why the Toronto Raptors are once again contenders in the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors used a first-quarter 23-2 run, and second quarter 23-3 run to end the Jazz night before it ever truly began. At one point in the second quarter, the Jazz missed 17 straight shots, continuing to expose what is at times a bizarrely ineffective offense 20 games into the season.
Entering the night, the Jazz were just the 21st best offense in the NBA, despite carrying the fourth-best defense. Both numbers will drop after the blowout performance in Toronto, in which the Jazz allowed a 124 offensive rating from Toronto while having a 105 offensive rating of their own.
The Raptors looked like a team that was well established in their identity, coming off a championship season, taking advantage of anything the Jazz were willing to sacrifice. In the first half, the Jazz appeared happy to give up just about everything.
When Rudy Gobert would drop to defend the paint, the Raptors were happy to let Marc Gasol hoist three-pointers, which led to three first-quarter makes, and 11 points.
When the Jazz got into the paint, the Raptors swarmed passing lanes and aggressively attacked the ballhandler leading to turnovers, and the Jazz repeatedly fell into the trap.
“It was just kind of a snowball effect and everybody got down,” Mike Conley said, “You can’t have five minutes stretches where you don’t score, or you turn the ball over,”
Head Coach Quin Snyder seemed to question the team’s belief in their identity.
“For us to be able to do the things we can, Snyder said, “We have to believe on a deep level that they are important.“
The Jazz started the game well and led 9-5 just under four minutes into the game, but the Raptors first enormous run put the game out of reach for the Jazz. With 3:24 left in the first quarter, the Jazz trailed 28-11, and the Jazz were never able to close the deficit to single digits.
The Raptors were led by Pascal Siakam who had 19 first-quarter points, and 35 overall to lead all scorers. The Jazz were led by Mike Conley with 20.
The Jazz nearly made a game of it in the third quarter, when they scored a franchise-high 49 points, at one point trimming the 40 point deficit to just 16 points with 2:42 left in the quarter. However, the Raptors closed the quarter on a 12-7 run and carried a 21 point lead into the fourth quarter.
Snyder largely used substitutes for the fourth quarter, and the deficit hovered around 20 points per game for the majority of the rest of the game. Dante Exum played the entire fourth quarter, his second-most minutes of the season, and finished with nine points in the quarter, but three turnovers, and looked shaky at times running the offense.
Riding the reserves did allow Snyder to rest the team’s starters before closing out the five-game road trip Monday night in Philadelphia. Considering the difficulty of this road trip, if the Jazz can steal a game against the 76ers, the five-game trip could be considered a success.
The Big Picture
The Jazz brutal road trip continued in Toronto, and the team fell to 1-3 before wrapping up against Philly Monday night, The Jazz lone win on the trip came against the 6-13 Memphis Grizzlies, in which the Jazz trailed by 15 points at the half. While the team can salvage the trip with a victory against the 76ers, it’s hasn’t done much to inspire confidence in the team when playing away from home.
For the season, the Jazz just 4-7 away from Salt Lake City, while the Raptors are a perfect 9-0 in Toronto.
Gobert has struggled coming back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for two games last week and wasn’t able to keep up with Gasol in the first quarter. Gasol scored all 11 of his points in the first quarter, but it didn’t really matter how he finished the final three quarters with the Jazz trailing by 17 after 12 minutes.
While Gobert has yet to have a great game since coming back from injury, playing against Gasol might not be a good measure about whether Gobert’s impact on the game has truly rebounded. Gasol’s unique ability to spread the floor as a three-point threat has always given Gobert trouble. For his career in head-to-head matchups, Gasol averages 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists against Gobert, and shoots 39% from the three-point line.
The two players teams have split the 16 career matchups evenly at 8-8.
Conley wasn’t surprised by Gasol’s performance, his former teammate in Memphis.
“I knew he was going to do that somehow,” Conley said, “I’ve watched a lot of [Toroto’s] games. I knew he was going to shoot a lot more tonight.”
The 49 point third quarter was a good indicator of how well the Jazz offense can play when all elements are working. Donovan Mitchell was aggressively attacking the rim, then finding open shooters in the corners for good three-point attempts.
Mitchell and Conley combined for 24 third-quarter points, the Jazz shot 72% from the floor and 80% from the three-point line and outscored the Raptors 49-30. The Jazz had 15 assists in the quarter and zero turnovers.
“We were just playing hard, and playing for each other,” Conley said, “Making extra passes and that’s Jazz basketball.”
While it’s unlikely the Jazz will reach that point total again in a quarter at any point this season, its a good sign of how dangerous the offense can be at any given moment. Finding that rhythm will be key for the Jazz throughout the season.