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Five Thoughts on Last Night: Jazz 97, Raptors 93

Welcome Toronto night was beautiful. The Toronto Raptors performance in a 97-93 loss to the Utah Jazz? Not so much. We’ve got five thoughts on a tough loss.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Coming home off a dominating performance in Atlanta, the Toronto Raptors started slowly Friday, then responded nicely... then watched it all slip away as the Utah Jazz executed down the stretch and the Raptors could not.

That’s a Bad Loss to a Bad Team

The Jazz were 20-28, had lost six of ten coming in and were on Game 3 of a three-game Eastern trip. The Raptors were 32-14, playing at home having played once since Saturday.

The Raptors had a 12-point lead in the third quarter, a 6-point lead with 2:20 to play and a 3-point lead with 45 seconds to play; at that point their win probability was 89.5%.

The Jazz won by 4.

My head hurts.

Kyle Lowry, WYD?

That may have been Kyle Lowry’s worst game of the year—even worse than his shaking-off-the-rust game against Philly. 2-14 shooting, 7 assists, only 1 rebound, and 5 turnovers. 5 points scored.

Even worse, the two players he was primarily matched up against last night—Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio—combined for 40 on 14-of-31 shooting, and Mitchell hooked Rubio up for the game winning three.

Now, let’s be honest, if you’re the Raptors, Rubio is not a bad choice to take that shot. He’s a career 31% 3-point shooter, and is at 29.3% this season. But Lowry hedged off Rubio to help Delon Wright (guarding Mitchell) extremely early in the possession, and I’m not sure why. Even if Mitchell beat Wright—and Wright seemed to be recovering OK, and Mitchell was still two steps behind the three-point line when he made his move—Jonas Valanciunas was still waiting there in the paint.

Kyle was impatient, and Mitchell and Rubio made him pay.

(I do take some comfort that at least it wasn’t Joe Johnson that beat us.)

Do the Raptors Play Down to Their Competition?

A buddy of mine and I were talking Raps at the bar the other day and we both agreed that the Raptors seem to play well against the best teams and play poorly against poorer teams. We especially felt this way after they destroyed the Cavs and nearly came back against the Warriors, but lost to the Heat and the Sixers, and I sure felt it after this one.

The numbers don’t really back it up, though:

  • The Raptors are 1-3 against teams that currently have a better record than their own
  • They’re 12-8 against teams currently below them, but in the playoff picture
  • They’re 7-3 against the current 5-8 seeds in the East
  • They’re 19-4 against teams not currently in the playoff picture

So I don’t think we can say they play down to their competition; I’d say their record is pretty much exactly what you’d expect for the fourth-best team in the league.

(I admit I didn’t go so far as to look at margin of victory or clutch minutes against poor teams. But given the Raptors are still third in the league in offensive rating and third in scoring margin overall (a comfortable 7.6) I don’t think those numbers will tell us anything different).

Jonas Valanciunas was great, again. Serge Ibaka? Enh...

The numbers for Jonas Valanciunas were spectacular: 28 points on 12-16 shooting, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks in 27 minutes. And that’s with foul trouble slowing him down.

(I thought the calls on the fourth and particularly the fifth fouls were a little shaky...)

Most importantly he matched Rudy Gobert on the offensive glass (5 apiece) and helped the Raptors win the rebounding battle 52-47. And JV wasn’t afraid to take it to Gobert and to mix it up with him down low. (How Gobert walked away with only one personal foul, I do not know.)

As for Ibaka, he had a double-double of his own; it was great to see him grab some key rebounds. But he finished 1-5 from 3-point range, had a game-worst -9 and was not able to help an overmatched Jakob Poeltl slow down Gobert when Valanciunas went out.

Had Lowry and DeMar DeRozan not been laying bricks Serge’s night wouldn’t have mattered. As it is, I still say we need more out of our $21 million man.

I Guess We Have to talk About the Raptors’ Final Possession

What is there to say? You knew it was coming. The Jazz knew it was coming.

It wasn’t a bad shot (although it was way off).

At least the Raptors successfully inbounded the ball? At least they successfully got a shot off? (These two things aren’t exactly a given with the crunch-time Raptors.)

I don’t know, I guess you could argue that although DeRozan has embraced the ball-sharing mentality—another 8 assists last night—he only has eyes for the rim in crunch time. If he hadn’t made up his mind to shoot no matter what he might have realized Serge Ibaka was wiiiide open going to the hoop from the weak side and would have had a layup had DeMar passed it to him.

It would have been a tough pass, something possibly only LeBron James could have accomplished. And I don’t really have a problem with the shot. Still, keep your options open, DeMar.


One final note, on the first “Welcome Toronto” night. I attended the game and the black-and-gold was everywhere. There was absolutely no indication this team’s primary colours are red and white; the court, the pre-game light show and player intros, even the chyrons on the video replays were done up in black-and-gold. Everything looked great.

The court and jerseys look fantastic, though I’m not sold on the shorts (not sure I dig how asymmetrical they look with the chevron on the left leg), but that’s me being nit-picky.

It was sharply done and it was a cool experience. Too bad the Raptors couldn’t cap it off with a win.