For a minute, the Toronto Raptors looked like they were about to catch another break: Their next opponent, in this case the Utah Jazz, looked to be missing a number of key players for their trip to Toronto tonight, including centre Rudy Gobert.
But then the absences kept piling up and for a minute, it looked like the Jazz might not even have enough players to play the game! A team needs eight healthy players, and the Jazz, as of the 9:30 a.m. injury report, had five players out and another four questionable, leaving them with only six healthy players, with a couple of callups in the pipeline.
Will one of the “questionables” be ready by game time? Will the hardship players arrive in time? We’ll keep you posted!
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:30PM ET
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
Utah — Trent Forrest, Jordan Clarkson, Royce O’Neale, Eric Paschall, Hassan Whiteside
Toronto — Isaac Bonga (G League – out), Goran Dragic (personal – out)
Utah — Royce O’Neale (tendonitis – questionable), Hassan Whiteside (concussion protocol – questionable), Jordan Clarkson (back – questionable), Rudy Gay (heel – questionable), Donovan Mitchell (back – out), Bojan Bogdanovic (finger – out), Mike Conley (knee – out), Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles (health and safety protocols – out)
Who are these guys, v. 3571
The Jazz should make their signings of Danuel House and Norvell Pelle official today, and they’re expected to be in the lineup vs. Toronto — which would give the Jazz eight healthy players, even if none of the questionables above can go.
One can argue, of course, that this game shouldn’t be played under these circumstances, that it’s not fair to the Jazz, that it undermines the integrity of the game and contributes to the sense that the outcomes of regular season games are all meaningless.
All that is true!
And yet the Raptors had to undergo the same thing in Cleveland two weeks ago. Plus, you know, there was that whole Tampa thing...
What goes around
Our own Sean Woodley floated the idea on Twitter yesterday that the Raptors playing all these shorthanded teams in a row is karmic justice for what the team went through last year.
as much as I'd like to see the raptors play a good and challenging team I'm considering this run of games against depleted rosters some sort of cosmic retribution for the tampa season— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) January 6, 2022
Practicing in a hotel ballroom and playing 72 road games — a whole bunch of them shorthanded due to COVID — gave every other team in the league, all of whom got to live at home and play in their home arenas, a leg up on the Raptors. If the Raptors get a few back this year against undermanned teams, we’re totally OK with that.
Go for five
Naturally, the danger for the Raptors in playing a shorthanded team is taking them too easy and looking past them. And the Jazz are a well-coached, fundamentally sound team, even when missing players.
The good news for the Raptors is that they're peaking at the right time. Sure, it feels somewhat unsavoury for the Raps to use all these injury-riddled foes to get into a groove; it feels like a powerhouse college football team playing pre-conference games against small schools to work out the kinks in their schemes.
But again, we’ll take it — and hey, it seems to be working. Pascal Siakam scored 33 against Milwaukee, and has dished out five or more assists in five straight games. Fred VanVleet has caught fire. Gary Trent Jr. has scored 20+ in two straight, after struggling for his first couple games, post-health-and-safety-protocols. Scottie Barnes struggled in Milwaukee, but at the same time, Nick Nurse seems to have settled on a rotation (sans Yuta Watanabe) that features Barnes and Siakam as his backup point guards.
If all of these games put the Raptors in a good place when they go on the road later this month, yeah, we’re totally OK with that too.