Utah’s paint presence bothers Raptors

Raptors fall to 2-3 on road trip despite taking 27 more shots.

“It don’t matter how may shots you get if they don’t go in.”

That quote is from Fred VanVleet in reference to a season-high 25 offensive rebounds for the Raptors. Toronto is back to a season-worst tying seven games under .500 with two left to go on the road trip after falling 131-128 in Utah. Similar to the losses in Phoenix and Golden State, the Raptors were competitive and traded leads in the fourth quarter but ultimately fell short.

The Rookie Wall

Typically that’s a bad term that describes a rookie hitting a slump but not in this case. The Raptors struggled mightily to do anything offensively around Walker Kessler early in the game, who had six blocks in the first quarter alone.

That’s probably a sore sight for any fans that were against the Thaddeus Young trade at this time last year that freed Toronto of Goran Dragic but cost the 20th overall pick. Kessler was drafted 22nd and his blocks per game (2.1, fourth in NBA) have steadily risen as he’s seen more court time.

Nick Nurse also mentioned the chances at the rim that the Raptors didn’t capitalize on.

“Okay so he blocked six, but we still had another I don’t know… 15? That he wasn’t involved in and we probably could have done something with.” Nurse said.

Fred’s triple-double

Despite the early block party, the Raptors only trailed by six after the first quarter and actually won the next three. Unfortunately though, wins are not decided by quarters won.

Toronto used a 13-5 run before halftime to get back in the game after trailing by as many as 14. Another run in the third gave the Raptors a brief lead, thanks to 28 fast break points. Fred did his best to keep the Raptors afloat with 34 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.

VanVleet’s assist to Chris Boucher late in the fourth wrapped up his second career triple-double, both coming against the Jazz.

Clutch plays for Utah

Unlike Fred’s first triple-double last season, the Jazz got the win this time.

Kessler’s seventh block (career-high tying) and ensuing alley-oop the other end was a huge momentum swing to put the Jazz up three. I haven’t mentioned Lauri Markkanen until now, but he continued his all-star level campaign with 28 points and 13 boards as both him and Kessler racked up double-doubles. Lauri’s corner three extended the lead to eight.

Then during Fred’s three point flurry to give the Raptors hope, Pascal Siakam fouled out and Jordan Clarkson nailed a couple of back breaking daggers to put Toronto away for good.

The Jazz were efficient outside of their 16 turnovers, shooting 53 percent from the field and knocking down 17 threes. The Raptors entire starting lineup scored in double figures, combining for 106 points and Chris Boucher added 16 off the bench. However giving up north of 130 is still not going to cut it on most nights. Missing eight free throws (18-26) in a three point result also hurts.

Up Next: The Raptors take on the worst team they’ll see on this road trip in Houston on Friday.

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