If you’re keeping track at home, Wednesday night’s 93-89 loss to the Utah Jazz marked the fifth time already this season that the Toronto Raptors (7-6) have lost despite owning a fourth quarter lead. Their inability to close out games again came into focus in Utah, when the visibly fatigued Raps blew a lead that had been as high as six points in the final frame against the young, hungry Jazz.
After a DeMarre Carroll three put the visitors up 77-71 with 7:07 left, Gordon Hayward sparked an 11-2 run in just over two minutes of game time to help the hosts take over. Toronto took the lead again on a Jonas Valanciunas layup with 1:21 to go, but the Jazz answered with a 5-0 run of their own to go up for good. After holding Utah to just 27.8% (5-18) shooting in the third quarter, the Raptors’ defense allowed the Jazz to shoot 61.1% (11-18) from the floor in the deciding fourth quarter.
On the back end of a grueling back-to-back, it was the senior member of the club whose legs appeared the freshest. Luis Scola, earning his highest minutes allotment per game since his 2012-13 season in Phoenix, led all scorers with 22 points on 10-15 shooting. But offense was hard to come by otherwise, with Carroll finishing 2-8 from the field, DeMar DeRozan needing 15 shots to record 14 points and Kyle Lowry riding a 1-7 night from three-point range to a 6-17 effort from the floor.
Utah, meanwhile, recorded one more field goal despite taking eight fewer shots than their Raptor counterparts. They were led by an efficient 18 points on 7-9 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds from Derrick Favors. The Jazz also edged their opponents in rebounds (41-37), assists (15-14) and points in the paint (46-40), although it bewilders me that 7’1″ Rudy Gobert came away with just five rebounds, less than 6’8″ wings Rodney Hood and Hayward managed to pull down.
First poster of the season
I suppose I could go with Scola’s cooly efficient night here, but then DeRozan hammered down this emphatic slam over Gobert. While the go-ahead dunk with 4:16 to go didn’t spark Toronto to victory, it did represent an early submission for dunk of the year. It also served as the biggest jam by a Raptor over a Frenchman – no disrespect intended to the beautiful country in light of last week’s Paris attacks – since Vince Carter took flight over Frederic Weis.
Strong play in the third quarter doesn’t mean much if you can’t follow it up in a meaningful way in the fourth. That seems to be a challenge for the Raps, with Jack Armstrong pointing out on last night’s broadcast that NBA teams can elevate their games in the fourth and Toronto has to be able to do the same. Instead, their defensive effort became lax down the stretch, particularly in guarding the perimeter where they allowed Utah to make four threes over the final 12 minutes after allowing just three treys over the first three quarters combined.
Use of timeouts
It may seem like a small thing, but timeouts can play a critical role in tight games. On Wednesday, Jazz coach Quin Snyder used his breaks effectively, writing up clear, clever plays that his players executed well. A timeout with 6:22 left led to a play that freed up Trey Burke on the three-point line to cut Toronto’s lead to two. After JV put the Raps on top in the game’s final 90 seconds, Snyder spread the floor out of a timeout and afforded Alec Burks the go-ahead jumper that ultimately decided the game. Dwane Casey’s timeouts, meanwhile, were used less effectively, leading to an off-balanced, low percentage Lowry jumper that didn’t go in, a delay of game violation and, for the second time in as many games, an inbound play in which no one could get open, forcing Carroll to burn the team’s final timeout.
Trevor Booker may not make a prettier highlight reel shot than this one all season long.
Nothing was expected of Bruno Caboclo this early on, so it’s unfair to offer up any degree of evaluation at this stage. That being said, it’s tough to see Hood become a key member of Utah’s starting five while Caboclo, picked three spots ahead of the Duke product who some saw as a lottery pick heading into the 2014 Draft, develops slowly in the D-League. Hood has three years on Caboclo, so there is time for the Brazilian to catch up. In the meantime, though, Hood and his 13.3 points per game sure would offer a nice scoring compliment backing up DeRozan and Carroll on the wing right now. Another good fit would be athletic big man Clint Capela, who has blossomed in Houston after being selected 25th in the same draft.
The Western swing ends this weekend at Staples Center. The Raps visit the Lakers on Friday night (10:30pm, SN1) before they switch out the floor for a Sunday afternoon tilt against the Clippers. Raptors 905, meanwhile, will christen the Hershey Centre for their home opener tonight against the Maine Red Claws.
Prediction: Raps 104, Lakers 99 (record this season: 5-7)