This was supposed to be a battle of two hot teams but Utah’s world has come crashing down over the last 24 hours.
The Jazz (28-10, 3rd in West) are coming off a solid win in Denver without Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. Bojan Bogdanovic dropped 36 points for Utah’s eighth win in nine games. They’ve quietly crept up to only two games back of Phoenix for the NBA’s record and one game shy of Golden State for second. However just like the Warriors trip north last month, lots of guys are not walking through that Canadian door. The full injury report (at the moment) is a few scrolls down.
I’ve never seen a Jazz injury report where literally the entire rotation is on it 😂😂😂😂
— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) January 6, 2022
As this ultra weird season rolls on, the Raptors (18-17, 7th in East) finally seem to be on the less disadvantaged side of things. Toronto has won four straight with some help.
In the span of one week, the Raptors have faced/will face the Clippers, Knicks, Spurs, Bucks and Jazz without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Julius Randle, Dejounte Murray, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic.
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 6, 2022
You’ll be hard pressed to find a Raptors fan who cares. Toronto recently experienced a Boxing Day baptism in Cleveland, where four of the eight players miraculously available were hardship replacements. Guys were missing the next game vs Philadelphia too, which was the last time the Raptors lost. There’s Tampa, and then defending the title in a bubble because that’s completely normal. So still, no team has been more inconvenienced than the Raps since Covid began.
As far as actual game analysis is concerned, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam come in playing their best ball of the season at the same time. Siakam is coming off a season high 33 points, and is averaging 24 ppg, 12.8 rpg and 6.3 apg during the win streak. Compare that to the November 18 loss in Utah where Pascal was getting his legs back and arguably had his worst game of the season, shooting 2-14. Fred had a quiet second half in Milwaukee after bombing away early, but still has 35 made threes over his last six games. Speaking of VanVleet, his votes need to drastically go up.
Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Nets’ Kevin Durant lead the NBA’s first All-Star fan voting returns: pic.twitter.com/3812PFdcGb
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 6, 2022
It’s always hilarious to see someone like Kyrie Irving have double the votes after playing exactly one game. Or Derrick Rose, who’s averaging 12 points off the bench and hasn’t played in over three weeks but appears to have a cult-like following. That’s fans though and it’s not just big market. Bruce Bowen nearly made the all-star team for the Spurs in 2009. He received more votes that year than Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki in their prime. This is back when starters were a 100% fan vote. Bowen was premier defender in the 2000s but didn’t even average three points a game in what was his final season. Zaza Pachulia’s scare of starting in Toronto’s 2016 all-star game ultimately forced the NBA to take some power away from the fans.
Back to this game, sorry. OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr both had 22 points vs the Bucks and are doing a great job providing complimentary scoring. Fans want to see Scottie Barnes take more shots (he’s averaging 7.3 FG attempts in three games this month, nearly five fewer than his season average of 12.2). Samson has noted that he still gets as many touches as anyone on the team though (there will be a more comprehensive breakdown next week). Remember Nick Nurse at the beginning of the season continuously begged Scottie to shoot while guys were out, so it’s not a surprise to him be passive again with his attempts. Nurse said himself earlier this week that the Raptors are still very much in a “experimental” phase. We’ll see which lineup combinations and situations call for a more aggressive Barnes as things play out. Nothing to get riled up about.
Svi is expected to be back but I still want to see Justin Champagnie minutes. Good things happen when he is on the court.
Take the breaks as they come (while hoping everyone involved is okay) with a five game road trip looming late next week. The more Scottie OG and Pascal get used to playing together, the better.
Tip-Off: 7:30pm EST | TV: TSN 1/3/4/5 | Radio: Sportsnet 590
This is rough.
QUESTIONABLE – Royce O'Neale (Right Patellar Tendonitis)
QUESTIONABLE – Hassan Whiteside (Concussion Protocol)
QUESTIONABLE – Jordan Clarkson (Low Back Tightness)
QUESTIONABLE – Rudy Gay (Right Heel Injury Recovery)
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 6, 2022
Throwing the questionable guys into this guess of a lineup. Doubt all the questionable guys will suit up though.
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Trent Forrest, Jared Butler
SF: Royce O’Neale, Elijah Hughes, Malik Fitts
PF: Rudy Gay, Eric Paschall
C: Hassan Whiteside, Udoka Azubuike
The Jazz are planning to sign center Norvel Pelle to a 10-day hardship deal, sources tell ESPN, He’s expected to play vs. Toronto tonight.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 7, 2022
Svi Mykhailiuk has exited Covid protocols, Yuta Watanabe remains in them. Isaac Bonga is with the 905. Goran Dragic is still away.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn
SG: Gary Trent Jr, Svi Mykhailiuk
SF: Scottie Barnes, Justin Champagnie
PF: OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher
C: Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch, Precious Achiuwa
The Raptors are favoured by 11 points against Utah’s D team. Over/Under is 222 points.
My over/under prediction (9-4 this season): The Raptors are averaging 120.5 ppg during their four game win streak. No worries there. Will Utah cover the remaining 102 points? I say no. Taking the under.