Gameday: Raptors vs Jazz – Mar. 24/10

Raptors host Utah, for the first game of a mini two-game home stand tonight.

All things considered, the Raptors aren’t doing that bad recenty. They are 6-11 since the All-Star game, but 3-1 in their last 4 games, with two of those coming on the road. Those two wins were against the two worst teams in the NBA, but a win is a win is a win, and they got em. What got lost is that win over the Hawks that has these guys looking to make a bit of a run heading into the playoffs. Triano echoed that sentiment after practice:

We’re not playing well and we think we’re starting to turn the corner a little bit where we have better focus. I don’t think we’re playing great basketball, but we’re starting to share it a little better.

He is on to something there; in the last 3 wins, the Raptors are averaging 23ast while shooting 48.4% from the field, both higher than their season averages, and both indicative of the team moving the ball around looking for the right shots. Take that with a grain of salt though, two of those three wins have come against poor teams…man I’m jaded…

The Jazz on the other hand are just rolling along quite well. They sit 4th in the West, and are 7-3 in their last 10 games. This is a team we all want the Raptors to be: solid ownership/management, Hall of Fame coach, elite point guard surrounded by above average talent. In fact, the Raptors are winless against the Jazz dating back to 2006 (9 losses in a row). This is a franchise that proves players will go anywhere as long as the program is a winning one because let’s face it, there’s nothing cool about Salt Lake City Utah (no offence Spencer).

The last time these guys played, the Jazz got the better of the Raptors in a game that was over rather early. The Raptors made a go of it, but it was already written. Kirilenko had a beast of a game with 20pts 7rebs 3stl 2blk off the bench, and Boozer and D-Will basically did what they wanted 22pts 18reb and 20pts 6rebs 9ast respectively. There is no reason to think they can’t replicate that effort again tonight.

I checked in with Spencer Hall from Salt City Hoops to get a bit of insight into this Jazz team:

Is Carlos Boozer staying or leaving? What would you look like without him? Can Millsap do it full-time?
I’m more and more convinced that Carlos Boozer will re-sign with the Jazz this summer — a scenario that would have been absolutely unbelievable just a few months ago. All things considered, I have to give both the Jazz and Boozer credit for putting aside the nonsense from last summer and having a great year. It is a contract year, but he’s been nothing but professional. Don’t be surprised to see Booze back in SLC next year. I don’t think we’re even going to have to see if MIllsap can do it full time. It looks more and more like the Jazz paid a lot of money to get exactly what they paid for: Paul Millsap, not the next Carlos Boozer.

Without Boozer the Jazz definitely become a different team, and not always a bad one. There have been stretches over the last few years when he’s been out with injuries that the Jazz have played very well. But there’s no way this team contends without contributions from Boozer, Okur, AK, and Deron Williams. It’s definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

Can the Jazz hold on to 4th? Who do you guys want to play in the 1st round?
The Jazz will definitely hold onto fourth, and might steal the division title, considering the way Denver is stumbling. Anyone is going to be tough in the first round, but the Jazz have somehow had the Spurs’ number this year. If we were picking the opponent, D-league style, the Jazz would go with San Antonio.

At what point does Jerry Sloan get Coach of the Year? If he gets it for a season he may not have deserved to (like Denzel Washington winning for Training Day when he was gold in Hurricane and Malcolm X), will that make it any less sweet?
I think you’re right, he’ll get it some year when the Jazz win 48 games with a boring roster and no one cares. He makes a good point that COY is kind of a kiss of death. The list of coaches who have been fired the next year is almost shocking. That being said, there is nothing I enjoy more than hanging around Sloan’s postgame remarks. It’s like going to a book reading with Hemingway.

Is Fesenko enough to carry the Jazz into the playoffs?
Are you forgetting Kosta Koufos? The Jazz have the feared Ukrainian-Greek combo ready to carry the team to new heights. Honestly though, Fesenko really is an X-factor. He’s a huge guy with sneaky athleticism. He’s been solid filling in for Memo down the stretch but his mysterious “stomach virus” keeps acting up and keeping him out of games. He’ll win a game or two for the Jazz in the playoffs.

Has Andre Kirilenko cashed in his once a year infidelity chip? Is he worth anything in a trade?
Apparently AK traded in his pass to get permission to grow out his hair (made up), a decision that has been rewarded with a reverse-Samson effect: He’s playing his best basketball in years but his injured back keeps flaring up and keeping him out of games. He’s also been seen in a walking cast lately. He’s probably not a great value at $84 million, but he’s absolutely been the glue for the Jazz for most of the year, especially early.

So the Jazz tonight and Denver on Friday, it wont be easy, but one of these needs to be a win; I’m liking the Denver game a bit more for some stupid reason – we owe them. It’s going to take a full 48 minutes of effort and execution from the Raptors. Bargnani and Turkoglu have been violently inconsistent the last few games, but really need to lead the way, and not be lazy. Not saying it’s going to happen, but I have a good feeling (the gamblers have the line at Utah -3.0 with an over/under of 214, not exactly a ringing endorsement for the home team).