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Raptors look to break even against the Jazz: Preview, start time, and more

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A win over Utah Jazz would give Toronto a 3-3 record for their big road trip out west.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors began their season-high 6-game road drip with valiant efforts in defeats to the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors.

Toronto proved once again that their fully capable of competing against the league’s heavyweights holding leads in the fourth quarter on both occasions but unable to seal the deal.

Since then, the team rebounded with wins against the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers before an embarrassing performance on Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets.

But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Raptors can return home with a 5-3 overall record (3-3 on their road trip) with a win over the Utah Jazz and knowing that one of the tougher sections of their entire schedule is done and over with.

Here are all the details and three things to watch out for in tonight’s game:

Where to Watch:

Sportsnet One at 9:00 pm

Starters:

Raptors: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas

Jazz: Ricky Rubio, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert

Injuries:

Raptors: None

Jazz: Joe Johnson, Raul Neto, Danté Exum

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Quick Start

One of the more troubling trends during the Raptors’ six-game road trip has been their inability to get off to a quick start. Time and time again, Toronto has played with fire allowing opponents during this stretch to score 27.8 points per first quarter, including a season-high 34 against Denver.

The team cannot simply afford to put themselves behind the eight ball as they did against the Nuggets where the game was all but over after the game’s first 12 minutes.

We know the Raptors can play solid defence — they limited the Trail Blazers to just six in the second quarter and are ranked 11th with 102.6 allowed per game.

It’s just a matter of bringing that intensity from the get-go.

Stingy Defence

Speaking of defence, there are few better than the Jazz who allow just 94.4 per contest (second-lowest in the NBA) while opponents shoot 43.2 percent from the field overall (sixth-lowest in NBA).

Collectively as a unit, they don’t foul much either forcing their opponents to make shots rather than gift easy points from the charity stripe.

Opposing teams are averaging just 18.1 free throw attempts per game, a credit to their towering bigs — Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors — and solid perimeter defenders like veteran Thabo Sefolosha.

In the absence of Raptor killer Joe Johnson, Sefolosha has seen an increase in playing time and will likely be tasked with defending DeMar DeRozan down the stretch.

The Raptors guard continues to feast at the free throw line averaging 8.4 attempts per game but should be in tough to find the same amount of success against the Jazz.

Stormin’ Norman?

After putting in 15 points on opening night, Norman Powell has struggled to find his rhythm. Taking away his first game, the former UCLA Bruin has shot an abysmal 26.9 percent from the field, including 2-of-12 from downtown.

Prior to the season, the Raptors rewarded Powell with a four-year $42 million US contract extension betting on the third-year pro to take the next step in his development.

If the Raptors’ new commitment to three-point shooting is going to work, more of those looks need to fall and Powell is one of the players needing to be more efficient from beyond the arc.

His troubles on the perimeter seem to have carried over into Powell’s biggest strength — attacking through the lane — which is arguably just as crucial as it opens up better looks for his teammates from long distance.

Of Powell’s 51 field goal attempts, 23 have been three-point attempts and as a result, we’ve seen less of the explosive side of Powell.

Wednesday’s game featured some of the old Powell as he made all five shot attempts in the paint.

Perhaps Powell can use this as a building block and re-establishing his aggression in the paint could in turn lead to more confidence shooting the ball.