Toronto Raptors (25-22) at Utah Jazz (16-31): 3 keys to new win streak

The Toronto Raptors visit Salt Lake City for the only time this season, to clash with a much-improved Jazz squad. Utah’s performance at the Air Canada Centre in early November was one of the worst I’ve ever seen, and the Jazz were in the midst of a 1-14 start to the season. They have managed to right the ship without canning any suits, or holding a fire sale of players, and are a respectable 15-17 since bottoming out.

Feb 1, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Utah Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward (20) in the first half of the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Gordon Hayward, a smart and versatile shooting guard, leads their team in scoring. He will take what he’s given, so he can hit pull-up jumpers, or take it to the hole. Richard Jefferson, who shouldn’t be starting for anyone, does so at small forward. Marvin Williams is their power forward, but always looks uninvolved when I’ve seen him. If I were the Utah brains trust, I’d start kids in place of those two; the playoffs are out of reach for the Jazz unless they go on a 25-game win streak. In fairness, youthful Derrick Favors, Utah’s top rebounder and shot blocker, will be a game-time decision due to injury. Utah drafted well when they selected Trey Burke last summer. He’s moved into the starting point guard slot, and scores and passes like a veteran. The centre is Enes Kanter, who will mix it up with Jonas Valanciunas.

Utah’s best rotation player is guard Alec Burks; the rest of the bench has a pulse, barely.

The Raps should grab a win in a city that hasn’t been friendly over the years, and will if they:

  • play up-tempo, both ways. Jefferson, Williams and Hayward do not have the speed of our guys. We should be aiming for odd-man breaks all game, and only get into the half-court set when necessary. I’d love to see Terrence Ross with a half-dozen slams off the fast break. Similarly, let’s see if their rookie point can handle ball pressure all the way up the court.
  • get the second unit involved early. Our bench should crush theirs. Coach Casey should have fun mixing first and second unit players to keep Utah off balance.
  • stay in the game. Our huge deficit against Portland might not have been so bad had JV, TRoss and others have to spend so much time on the bench because of foul trouble.

The Jazz are more competitive than before, but we should still expect to beat them by a 103-90 count.

Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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