Jazz [20-28] at Raptors [32-14]: Preview & 3 keys to victory

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 05: DeMar DeRozan /

The Jazz face the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. Utah is back to its full lineup and will be a problem for Toronto to defeat.

The Utah Jazz, proud(?) owners of pro sports’ most incongruous moniker and worst uniforms (in my opinion anyway), are in Toronto.

This team was expected to build on their 51-31 record of last season. They advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, at which point the Golden State Warriors kicked them to the curb. The Jazz have unveiled a superb rookie named Donovan Mitchell – yet they aren’t within shouting distance of last season’s record, or a playoff spot this one. What happened?

A big, in every sense, contributor to their success has been French center Rudy Gobert. When he hurt his knee in mid-December, Utah promptly went into a slump. Gobert appears to be fully healthy again, though it’s too late for his team. Assuming he’s truly himself again, the paint will be an unfriendly place for Raptors to roam.

DETROIT, MI – JANUARY 24: Donovan Mitchell
DETROIT, MI – JANUARY 24: Donovan Mitchell /

I have difficulty understanding why the Jazz has taken such a long time to rebuild. After blowing half a decade on a bunch of high draft picks, how can they be so dependent on a rookie to lead them in scoring?

Rodney Hood is allegedly their secondary scorer; for me, he’s a player whom I’ve seldom “seen good”, as the old baseball scouts used to say (and maybe still do). His numbers are alright, and he makes long balls at a 38.6% rate, but there’s still something missing.

Ricky Rubio starts at the point. I don’t see how the team can thrive with him in a primary role; he’s an excellent defender and passer, but a poor shooter. That’s a huge handicap to overcome.

Joe Ingles at small forward is dangerous when he gets set up for 3-pointers, though the rest of his game is blah.

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Their bench is old. Joe Johnson is still cashing cheques because he hasn’t lost the ability to create and make his shot. Jonas Jerebko seems to have a different uniform every time I see him.

3 keys to Raptors victory

  1. Go straight at Mitchell. It’s the oldest and most reliable tactic in the coaches’ handbook – if you want to sit down a young hotshot, get him in foul trouble. Mitchell averages 3.1 fouls per game. Let’s see if he can keep up with DeMar DeRozan.
  2. Punish their bench. Once again, the Raptors are facing a team whose rotation players shouldn’t be able to stick with our eager kids. We need to play fast against these guys; they don’t like it.
  3. Respect Gobert, but not too much. That means Jonas Valanciunas, who had a fine outing in Atlanta, needs to made their center work. The ball has to go inside, DD has to drive to the tin – if Gobert gets some blocks, bully for him. We’ll get more baskets.


The Jazz neither score nor surrender a lot of points. The Raptors drained a lot of 3-balls against the Hawks. If our guys can do it again, this game will provide a happy result.

Toronto 111 – Utah 99