Pre-Game

Gameday: Jazz @ Raptors, Jan. 1

Happy 2019 everybody!

New year, new me, turning over a new leaf, resolutions and all that… jazz.

Utah is here to help the Toronto Raptors tip-off 2019 still looking to build some kind of momentum for what has been a very so-so season thus far. At 18-19 and 2.5 games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference, they will still feel optimistic about making a run at some point as after this four-game east coast road trip that begins tonight, they will play 25 of their final 41 games at home.

To do that, though, they’ll need a huge turnaround from prized shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, whose numbers have steadily declined as the season has gone on. He averaged 18.2 points on 17.6 shots for the month of December, shooting just 29.8 percent from three-point range. In fact, he’s now at under 30 percent for the season. The eye test suggests that he’s been far too premeditated in his approach, making up his mind whether to drive or shoot well before giving himself a chance to actually make a read on what the defense is doing. So far this year, he’s got 111 assists to 91 turnovers, and over his last seven games, he’s got 29 assists for 26 turnovers. It’s ugly.

Joe Ingles is still playing well but has come back down to earth after a torrid start while Rudy Gobert has trended upwards after maybe feeling himself a bit too much as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year coming into this season. Kyle Korver is doing what you’d expect since being acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers via trade.

The Raptors have had their own share of struggles, closing out 2018 with a 7-7 stretch that has seen them supplanted by the Milwaukee Bucks atopthe Eastern Conference. The struggles to find a consistent flow without Kyle Lowry continue but the absence of Jonas Valanciunas can’t be overstated either. Against the size Utah presents in the front court, he will be sorely missed once again.

In the absence of Lowry, Toronto has needed Kawhi Leonard to be in full superstar mode, and the last three games have shown evidence of the difference when he’s not at that level. He struggled in the first half as did his team in the first half against Miami before rallying the troops thereafter, while bad shooting nights (12-of-30 inside the arc) over the past two games have resulted in an embarrassing loss to the Orlando Magic and an unconvincing win over the Chicago Bulls.

After just four points on 1-for-8 shooting against the Magic, it was good to see Pascal Siakam bounce back against the Bulls with 20 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. He’ll undoubtedly be buoyed by his guest appearance on The Lowe Post with Zach Lowe where he had some interesting things to say about wanting to establish himself outside of The Bench Mob and get rid of the stigma that he was a bench player.

If the Raptors can get strong performances out of those two, it’s certainly half the job done, but for the most part in the absence of Lowry, it’s been about grinding out results. There’ll be no easy way through this one.

GAME INFO

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT.
TV: Sportsnet ONE, Ontario. Radio: TSN Radio 1050.

RAPTORS UPDATES

Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas remain out while everyone else is good to go.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Lorenzo Brown
SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell, Malachi Richardson
SF: Kawhi Leonard, C.J. Miles
PF: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
C: Serge Ibaka, Greg Monroe, Chris Boucher
OUT: Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas

JAZZ UPDATES

Ricky Rubio and Jae Crowder sat out Saturday’s win over the New York Knicks but are listed as probable for tonight. Grayson Allen remains out with a sprained right ankle.

PG: Ricky Rubio, Dane Exum, Raul Neto, Naz Mitrou-Long
SG: Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Korver
SF: Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, Thabo Sefolosha
PF: Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder, Georges Niang, Tyler Cavanaugh
C: Rudy Gobert, Ekpe Udoh, Tony Bradley
OUT: Grayson Allen

THE LINE

The Raptors are three-point favorites and the over/under is set at 211.

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