It's a tremendous cliche but truly, there's no place like home. The Raptors now go on an annual Christmas-New Year's road trip out west -- thanks to the World Juniors hockey tourney -- and it's usually a hard storm to weather. When they do finally return home, there's a sense of palpable relief. It's an accomplishment just to go 3-3, as the Raptors did. "Everybody has a part of their schedule that you don't look forward to," said coach Dwane Casey before tonight's game. "And we just went through ours."
One of the high points of the trip though was the Raptors' 104-98 win over the Utah Jazz at its start back on December 23rd. While Toronto continued on its odyssey out west, the Jazz regrouped and powered through a four game win-streak -- two on the road, and two at home. (They most recently lost to the Boston Celtics on the road; thanks for nothing, guys.) The Jazz are now 22-14 and represent a significant challenge to most any NBA team, the Raptors not excepted.
Despite being home, news for the Raptors is not all good. As confirmed pre-game, Patrick Patterson will miss tonight's game. This means we may get a lot of Pascal Siakam -- who has been struggling -- or more funky lineups featuring combos of Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, and Jakob Poeltl. Let's get wild.
For the Jazz, George Hill is still out (sigh of relief) but Dante Exum is apparently available, and Rodney Hood -- who was still working his way back in the last match against Toronto -- is fully recovered. We wait with bated breath to see how things will go.
Now, get completely up to speed with this fulsome preview from Matt Teague, and then settle in. The Raptors are back at home, and yes, there's no place like it. Let's watch.