I’m not actually quite sure what this means, because I don’t think it’s actually a thing. But to “rock and roll someone,” I would have to assume that it refers to a blowout. This game certainly wasn’t a blowout, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to use this title.
The Toronto Raptors took one to the chin tonight, losing 131-128 to the Utah Jazz. This puts Toronto at 2-3 on this tough west-coast road trip, and I bet they can’t wait to get back home. Tonight’s loss continues a trend of a lack of success on the road, pushing the Raptors’ road record to 8-18.
The game started off rough with Utah jumping out to a 10-2 lead, while the Raptors shot 1-10. At this point, and throughout much of the first half, this game looked like one that would be non-competitive.
Not that the Jazz were necessarily blowing the Raptors out, but they held onto a lead that surfaced around 10 points for much of the first half. Toronto did pull it back at the end of the second quarter, heading into the locker room only down 5, 65-60.
One thing that stood out to me in that first half was when Coach Will Hardy subbed in a lineup which consisted of four bench players and Lauri Markkanen fairly early in the first quarter.
Even though there is a big difference between a full bench lineup, and a lineup consisting of four reserves and one all star, it strangely gave me shades of the Bench Mob. Not for any reason but seeing a deep team put out an extremely competitive bench unit. Maybe part of it is the lack of a bench unit that the Raptors have put together for much of this year.
Tonight, the struggles of the Raptors’ reserves continued up till the end of the third quarter. Maybe I’m giving too much credit to the entirety of the bench, when it was really just Chris Boucher and a few solid possessions of Christian Koloko.
Boucher deserves credit, because he has been really good lately. Tonight, he finished with 16 points and 5 rebounds on an extremely efficient clip.
Speaking of deserving credit, and being really good lately, Fred VanVleet certainly continued to up his trade value... Or, whatever the Raptors are playing for now adays. An outstanding triple double of 34 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. All of that with 4 made three-pointers, and 6/6 from the free throw line.
VanVleet was one of the few Raptors to put up efficient numbers from the line, where as a team they shot 69% tonight. You aren’t going to win many games shooting that poorly from the stripe, and it especially hurts when you lose by three and miss eight.
The only thing more on fire than VanVleet tonight was that microphone that flamed up before the game started.
It was enjoyable to see a legitimately competitive second half. There was quite a few lead changes in the fourth quarter, but once again, the lack of an interior presence killed the Raptors.
It’s one thing for Markkanen to finish with 28 points and 13 rebounds, continuing to cement his all star campaign. It’s another for rookie center, Walker Kessler to finish with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 7 blocks. Who by the way, has been fantastic and probably more affective than Rudy Gobert when you account for their price tag.
But it is the absolute last straw when a team trots out a starting lineup whose small forward towers over your center. It is already expected that the opposing team’s center is going to make us look like we play in a lower age group, but a small forward?
Yes, I know. Utah is an exception where Markkanen is a seven-footer on the wing, but when the only true big in your lineup is a second round rookie, it’s a difficult life. If you read all of my articles you are probably annoyed at the fact that I belabour this point every game, but it turns out to be a factor every game.
All in all, the Raptors put up a solid fight and made it a really tight game at the end. It was never really in question, because the Jazz continued to answer back every time Toronto would score.
It was all in the lack of height and the lack of bench that costed Toronto the game. Outside of Boucher, there were only six bench points total. Pascal Siakam, despite a 21 point double-double continued to look tired, and looked like he didn’t have his legs under him tonight. But can you blame him? He leads the league in minutes at 37.7 per game, and for most of those he was the only offensive weapon on the team.
I’m sure Siakam is excited for all star break, and I’m honestly excited for him. Just two more weeks of games, and only two more on this road trip. Let’s see if the Raptors can head into the trade deadline strong.