Here's something troubling/irritating: In Rudy Gay's two best games of the season - last night in Indiana, and during the season opener against Boston - DeMar DeRozan shot 31% and 13% from the floor, respectively, and had a combined total of 19 points. During DeRozan's two best offensive games this year - a 31-point effort in Atlanta, on 14-23 shooting, and 21 points against Miami (8-15 from the floor) - Gay has gone a combined 11-28 from the floor, for a grand total of 27 points.
I'm not sure if there's some sort of unwritten rule that the Raptors' high-priced wings can't both play well during the same game (I once read somewhere that they're maddeningly inconsistent), but it would be nice if they could both get it going at the same time. And a good time to start would be tonight against the 0-6 Utah Jazz. The Raps will be looking to end a 3 game losing streak against the Jazz, who are, for want of a more diplomatic term, really awful.
Last season the Raptors lost both games to the Jazz, including a triple-overtime thriller - a game in which the Raptors went into, as is the case tonight, on a 3-game losing streak. But last season's Jazz - mildly mediocre - aren't this year's Jazz. The season's Jazz look set to earn a lot of lottery balls, which is probably all fine and dandy with the fans in Salt Lake City.
That's not to say that Tyrone Corbin's team don't have some talented players, because they do. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are a young and potentially explosive front-court duo, who should see plenty of playing time this year with the departure of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. And Gordon Hayward, who some Jazz fans believe is the Paul George of the Western Conference (note: he's not), is a multi-tooled swing-man who will shoulder the bulk of the offense this season.
But with rookie Trey Burke sidelined with injury, and Jamaal Tinsley and John Lucas III (gulp) splitting time at point-guard, the Jazz's offense has been a hot mess. The team can't score; they're currently ranked dead last in points per game and per possession, and they're leading the league in turnovers per game. Last night they scored 73 points in a 24-point shellacking at the hands of the Bulls, and really, if the Raptors aren't able to get the win tonight at home then...well...you know.
As always, here are 3 keys for the Raptors tonight:
Pressure the Jazz Guards
As mentioned above, Utah's back-court play has been atrocious this season. Lucas III is averaging 34% from the field, which looks Nash-esque compared with Tinsley's 18% shooting. Again, the Jazz are averaging over 20 turnovers per game so Kyle Lowry (who was excellent against Indiana), should hound and harass his opposite number at all times on defense, and look to be assertive at the offensive end.
Pick up the Pace
Heading into last night's game against the Pacers, the Raps were playing at the slowest pace in the league. In the first quarter, however, the team seemed to make a concerted effort to push the ball up the floor, and it paid some dividends. It's a little weird when you look at this roster - a roster that has athleticism to burn - that Dwane Casey seems so content to play at such a plodding pace most of the time. Against a Jazz team playing their final game of a grueling 4-game road trip, upping the pace again might be a wise strategy.
Rudy Gay's Defensive Intensity
Gay had his best game of the season against the Pacers last night, and not just at the offensive end. He was much more engaged defensively and although Paul George had a monster 3rd quarter, Rudy played a large role in the Pacers' superstar (yes, superstar) only shooting 7-21 from the floor. The fact that Gay has the potential to be a really solid defender is reason number 60500001 why he's such a frustrating player. Gordon Hayward is the Jazz's primary offensive threat and it will be interesting to see if Gay can raise his defensive game again; this time against a lower-profile, but dangerous opponent. If he can, the Raps will be well on course for the W.