Crazy as it sounds, there are only 30 games left in the season with so many question marks still up in the air.
The Raptors face Utah for the the first time this season, but they will play the Jazz again nine days from now in Toronto. That’s the first game after the trade deadline and it’s anybody’s guess which players will suit up in a Raptor uniform for both contests.
Raptors scope (23-29, 12th in East | Offensive rating: 10th | Defensive rating: 19th)
Toronto is coming off a 7-9 January, basically continuing to tread the waters of mediocrity. The Raptors are still one game out of a play-in spot, but also own the sixth worst record in the NBA.
Fatigue might finally be catching up to Pascal Siakam.
Pascal hasn’t hit the 25 point mark in any of his last five games. His raw numbers are still solid (22.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.2 apg), but he is only shooting 42 percent from the field over that stretch. The coaches votes are most likely already in for All-Star reserves, which will be announced during TNT’s Thursday doubleheader. Siakam has carried the Raptors for much of this season and although the team success isn’t there, most signs point towards a second all-star nod.
Jazz scope (26-26, 9th in West | Offensive rating: 4th | Defensive rating: 25th)
Honesty time. Yes it was only the pre-season, but I personally thought the Raptors were playing a bottom three team when Toronto mauled Utah by 32 in Edmonton to open up the 2022-23 campaign. Utah isn’t on top of the West anymore like the first 15 games, but sticking right in the thick of a loaded playoff race considering this was an assumed tank year is impressive. Utah is two games out of fourth in the West, but also two games away from falling to 13th. Every game truly matters.
Lauri Markkanen’s ascension to star status is a major reason why Utah is surprisingly competitive.
First of all, the campaign is dope. Markkanen is the favourite to win Most Improved Player. The difference between his numbers as a third/fourth option in Cleveland last season to the main guy in Utah are staggering.
|Utah (2022-23)||24.9 (+10.1)||8.6 (+2.9)||66.6 (+8.4)||5.7 (+3.1)|
Many credit Lauri’s play at EuroBasket for inspiring career changing results. He is flirting with 50/40/90 numbers on efficiency par with Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Markkanen is also a much more physical player now.
Chicago didn’t consistently see this side of Lauri in his four season there. However season six has been a revelation for Markkanen, who is only 25 years old and should expect to be named to his first all-star team on Thursday along with Siakam.
Tip-Off: 9pm EST | TV: Sportsnet One/4K | Radio: Sportsnet 590
O.G. Anunoby (wrist) is out for the rest of the road trip. Otto Porter Jr. (toe) is out for the season. Ron Harper Jr. and Jeff Dowtin Jr. are back with the 905.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton
SG: Gary Trent Jr.
SF: Scottie Barnes, Juancho Hernangomez
PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young
C: Precious Achiuwa, Christian Koloko, Khem Birch
Micah Potter (elbow surgery) and Simone Fontecchio (left foot) are out. Johnny Juzang is in the G-league. Utah’s entire starting frontcourt is at least 6’11, which could be problematic on the glass.
PG: Mike Conley, Collin Sexton
SG: Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Leandro Bolmaro
SF: Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, Talen Horton-Tucker
PF: Kelly Olynyk, Jarred Vanderbilt, Rudy Gay
C: Walker Kessler, Udoka Azubuike
Opening Line has the Jazz favoured by three points. Over/Under is 230.5.
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