Wow, what a difference Andrea makes! I made note in the game he went down that with how he had been playing, it wasn’t just the loss of his scoring punch the team would be missing, but obviously that’s the most integral difference between Barg’s Raps and the non-Bargs Raps. Last night he poured in 36 points on just 21 field goal attempts and was the only stand-out Raptor (save for maybe Silky Johnson) in a surprising 99-96 road win over the Phoenix Suns.

Tonight, the attention turns to Salt Lake and the surprisingly effective Utah Jazz outfit. While the Raptors certainly match up a lot better with him than without him, I’m not confident we’ll get Andrea’s very best, what with him having played 42 minutes in his first game action in nearly two weeks (Raptors record: 0-6 by the way). With this being the second night of a road back-to-back, I think Casey will be hesitant to cross the 35 minute barrier with him.

So, I suppose we hope for better things from the dumbfoundingly poor duo of Amir Johnson and Ed Davis. How bad these two have combined to play of late is unnerving, as they are supposed to be potential building pieces for this team moving forward. When two pieces of the future are relegated to a combined 15 minutes of play due to lack of effort or efficacy, in a season about growth and development no less, things aren’t looking up.

The Jazz are a team that appear to have done a near immediate rebuild after trading Deron Williams, and other than Denver are more or less the envy of any rebuilding team or star-less team. Other than their curious, Rasual Butler-like decision to give Raja Bell meaningful minutes over Alec Burks, they’ve ridden a strong young core and smart basketball to a 10-5 record.

But how do the Raptors match up? The tale of the tape looks grim…

Basically the Jazz have the advantage across the board, and we should expect an ugly affair. Utah will also be fresh, playing their first game since Saturday, at home, and with a deeper list of useful basketball players (e.g. not Rasual Butler, Anthony Carter, Jamal Magloire).

Keys to the game: Definitely needto come out fresh, as they won’t have the legs to play catch up. Andrea playing half as good as last night will be important, but they’ll really need contributions from Ed and Amir to keep up with the front-court power of Millsap, Jefferson, Favors, and Kanter. Obviously, as well, the Raps will need supplemental scoring from the wings to make up for their disadvantage in the paint, but too much of this hinges on a struggling DeMar DeRozan to be too positive.

The Line: Raps are 10.5 underdogs which seems about right, though the over/under seems a tad high at 188 (the two teams combine to average 182.4 points per game and play slow-ish paces).

The Prediction: Sorry everyone, but it’s Jazz 95, Raptors 81. And remember, I’m generally one of the more optimistic people around here (unless I happen to be doing postgame coverage, in which case this prediction would be 110-45 Jazz).

Enjoy the game if you get TSN2, 9pm tip-off.