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Toronto Raptors vs. Utah Jazz: Preview, TV Schedule, Injuries, and More

Raptors look to prevent third straight loss in matchup against a shorthanded Jazz team

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

It’s been a tough stretch for the 11-17 Toronto Raptors to close out the calendar year. In the last 10 games, they’ve gone 3-7, and continue to drift farther back in contention for even a play-in spot.

The All-Star-worthy play of Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes is being greatly overshadowed by continuous offensive struggles from the team as a whole, and mounting losses to teams the Raptors should be able to bury.

Of course, meeting the 20-10 Nuggets and 20-8 Sixers one after the other could stand to be demoralizing, but the best way to pick themselves back up would be a win tonight against a shorthanded Utah Jazz team. Utah has the advantage of a rest day, as Toronto traveled overnight from Philadelphia, as well as the momentum from a win against the Pistons without 5 of their rotation players.

Tonight they will likely be without Jordan Clarkson and Talen Horton-Tucker who are still questionable from lingering injuries, so there remains the opportunity for the Raptors to secure a victory.

This will be the first time Toronto welcomes back Kelly Olynyk to Scotiabank after his contributions to Team Canada during their bronze-medal run this summer in the FIBA World Cup.

While the objective is for the Raptors to win, it would be great to watch him have a solid game with a hometown crowd offering lots of support from fans who have been grateful to watch him as a mainstay on our National Team for the last few years. Against the Pistons he posted a dominant 27-3-6 with 4 steals, shooting 62.5% from the field, so there is undoubtable momentum for him coming into this matchup, although his touches will likely be limited with the return of some of the role players on the team, including Markkanen.

How to Watch:

Sportsnet, at 7:30 pm ET

Likely Lineups:

Toronto: Dennis Schroder, O.G. Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl

Utah: Collin Sexton, Kris Dunn, Walker Kessler, Lauri Markkanen, Simone Fontecchio

Injuries:

Toronto: Christian Koloko (Out; Respiratory Issue), not yet submitted to the league otherwise

Utah: Josh Christopher (Out; G League - Two-Way), Jordan Clarkson (Questionable; Injury/Illness - Right Hamstring Strain), Keyonte George (Out; Injury/Illness - Left Foot Inflammation), Talen Horton-Tucker (Questionable; Left Foot Inflammation) Micah Potter (Out; G League - Two-Way) Brice Sensabaugh (Questionable; G League - On Assignment)

*****

By the majority of the most obvious metrics, Toronto is better on paper. The Raptors hold a higher offensive rating, allow fewer points per game, and have a higher true-shooting percentage than their opponent. However, the most significant thing that Utah has over the Raptors is their 3-point percentage.

Toronto currently has the fourth-worst shooting percentage beyond the arc in the NBA. Utah isn’t much better, sitting in eighth-worst, but recently the Raptors have shot below their average, posting 27.3% from long range against the Sixers last night, 27.6% against Charlotte, and 32.3% against Atlanta.

Poor shooting from 3-point territory only compounds, allowing opposing players to pack the paint or play zone defence that generates turnovers. With big-bodies Walker Kessler and John Collins active in this matchup, scoring in the paint is already going to be challenging. Kessler is third in the league, averaging 2.8 blocks per game and Collins contributes another 1.6 although even their presence near the rim can be intimidating, discouraging players from taking shots.

Herein lies the offensive struggles the Raptors have had most of the season, and when they are almost continuously playing from behind after letting in 30+ points during the first quarter, it’s tricky to generate wins.

In this matchup it’s going to be important for the Raptors to limit first-quarter scoring, cash in some 3-point shots, and increase the usage of Scottie and Pascal if they want to be successful tonight.

The Raptors did a good job against Philly in the first quarter, scoring 37 but allowing only 28, a significant improvement from being outscored in that frame by 9 against Denver and 8 against Charlotte. Playing in front will be beneficial for them if they struggle with shooting later in-game, which hopefully won’t be an issue tonight.

Gary Trent Jr. has been improving his shooting recently, scoring 17 last night by hitting 5 of 8 from beyond the arc. His importance as a floor spacer can’t be understated, and when he’s hitting shots, that opens everything else up for Pascal and Scottie who can dominate in the paint and down low on post-ups.

Running the ball through their best two players should be obvious, but there’s been a fair amount of criticism around social media of the offensive decisions and the amount of touches guys like Flynn and Achiuwa are getting.

While it’s important to develop those guys into contributors, they’ve had some struggles recently offensively, and to get a much-needed win tonight, allowing Scottie and Pascal to do what they do best should help improve their chances of making that happen. Hopefully Pascal will follow up his dominant 31-5-5 performance from last night, and while Scottie had a tough shooting night against the Sixers, given his history we can probably expect him to bounce back tonight.