On the last game of a five-game road trip and on the second night of a back-to-back, the Toronto Raptors headed to Salt Lake City to face the Jazz. The Raptors had pulled together a gutsy win in Sacramento last night despite a woeful game from the bench. In particular, Pascal Siakam closed the game with the gumption of a newly minted All-Star. Additionally, Marc Gasol made his comeback on a minutes restriction as the Raptors are finally nearing full strength. Yet, Gasol would sit out because of the back-to-back, as would Fred VanVleet still nursing a sore shoulder.
The Jazz, meanwhile, were on a five-game win streak themselves and were seemingly starting to click after a season filled with both hot and cold runs. The last time the two teams faced, the Raptors dominated the first half by going up 40 points at the half and winning handily, 130-110.
Almost immediately, though, this game would be far from the previous shellacking.
In the first two minutes, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell collided in the air while on defense. Powell, visibly in pain, got up and limped off the sideline with some help. He went back to the locker room and would not return with a sprained ankle. Moments later, Anunoby had his foot stepped on by Mike Conley and lost a contact in the process. He went back to the locker room as well, but returned later on in the half.
With the injuries, the Jazz built a small lead at the beginning of the second quarter. However, as it went on, the Raptors began to claw back into it through heady play from Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Siakam. Lowry finished the half with 13 points and five assists. Ibaka led the way for the Raptors with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting, which included 3-for-5 from three. Siakam used all the skills in his bag by hitting tough lay-ups, fadeaway jumpers, and threes. He finished the half with 14 points, five rebounds, and three assists. He was a near perfect 6-for-7 from the field.
After a deep three from Lowry and a runner from Ibaka, the Raptors took a 57-51 lead into the locker room at the break. The Jazz were led by Joe Ingles and Mike Conley, both of whom had ten points by halftime.
At the start of the third quarter things began to get a little chippy. Lowry, ever the instigator, got a couple of offensive fouls called on Rudy Gobert and Royce O’Neale. O’Neale had words with the referee, but Lowry calmly moved on and shook his head while taking the ball up the court. A drought from Toronto let the Jazz hang around, as the Raptors could only secure a slim three-point lead midway through the third.
As the minutes ticked away in that frame, the Raptors kept up their stout defense and the Jazz missed some open looks. Toronto’s bench was still shaky, but they kept their composure while a few of the starters subbed out. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, for example, was feisty on the offensive glass and helped keep some possessions alive. At the end of the third, the Raptors had a six-point lead, 76-70.
To start the fourth quarter, the Raptors quickly started running the floor and built their lead to ten, which forced a quick Jazz timeout. Credit to Utah, they came out and immediately hit two threes and narrowed the lead to four. Coach Nick Nurse took his turn at calling a timeout. But the Jazz finally started hitting open looks and the Raptors began to turn the ball over at the worst possible time allowing the Jazz to tie the game up at 85 on an Ingles runner.
On the ensuing play, Lowry was fouled by Jordan Clarkson but missed both free throws. Next, Gobert took an inside pass with Ibaka on the deck, which gave the Jazz the lead for the first time since the second quarter. With the crowd going wild, it could have all gone south for Toronto. But as the Raptors have done all season, they found another gear. Anunoby hit a three, Ibaka went 1-for-2 from the line, and Siakam backed down near the rim to regain the lead.
Of course, the Jazz kept fighting and with a 95-92 Raptors lead, Gobert went flying down the lane only to be blocked by the timely Anunoby. Siakam drove to the rim on the next play and calmly hit two free throws. With only 40 seconds left, Anunoby and Gobert shoved each other a few times while heading up the court and exchanged words. Before things escalated further, Ibaka wrapped Anunoby up like a scarf to separate him and guide him to the bench. The officials ejected both Anunoby and Gobert for the incident — but by then it didn’t really matter.
After resuming basketball, the Jazz forced another turnover but Clarkson failed to hit the three. The Raptors made a bunch of free throws and finished the game with a win, 101-92. Siakam finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and a career-high eight assists. Ibaka finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Lastly, Lowry finished with 21 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. All told, Toronto’s defense held Donovan Mitchell and Gobert to a hollow 11 and six points, respectively.
The Raptors have now won four in a row, and return home for a few days of rest before taking on the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.