The Toronto Raptors look to wrap up their 3-game road trip with a win against the Utah Jazz this evening. Toronto is coming off a strong performance in Sacramento which saw them pull away with the 117-109 victory and avoid a 3-game losing streak. Tonight the Raptors (14-4) will face a desperate Jazz (5-13) team that has lost 6 straight games. The Raptors will play the Cleveland Cavaliers at home this Friday so they can’t afford to let one slip in this game versus Utah. The Raptors need to head into Friday’s contest with confidence against a surging Cavs team. Tonight’s game will be a test for the undermanned Toronto club as they’re playing in a back-to-back. It’s essential that the Raptors come out with a professional effort against a Utah team that lacks talent in comparison.
Cages Keys to the Game:
Effort for 48
The Utah Jazz are losers of 6 games in a row, so they will be hungry for a win at home. The Jazz will also be looking for some sort of redemption after dropping a game in Toronto last month. Last night the Raptors started the game with a spark and watched it fizzle throughout the middle of the game. Toronto will need to bring consistent effort for four-quarters tonight because the Jazz will come out fighting. Kyle Lowry will once again spear-head the effort for the Raptors, but the rest of the team will need to follow suit. Expect Tyler Hansbrough to get some burn tonight to help a potentially sluggish Raptors team. He hasn’t seen many minutes these past few games, so expect Psycho-T to be back in full force after averaging just 9 minutes in the past two games.
The Jazz may not be the best rebounding team in the league (22nd), but the Raptors (23rd) aren’t juggernauts on the glass either. Utah has some decent young bigs manning their interior. Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert are all big and able bodies who can hurt the Raptors inside if a body isn’t put on them. Jonas Valanciunas can’t afford to get forced out of the paint as the Jazz will look to crash the glass. We may see an early appearance from Sir Chuck Hayes if his effort on the glass isn’t consistent.
Get to the Line
Without DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors only consistent threat to get to the line from the perimeter becomes Kyle Lowry. JV gets his chances at the charity stripe, but the likes of Ross and Vasquez need to do a better job of drawing fouls. As a team on the road, the Raptors need to take the path of least resistance and get some free throws. Although it may seem difficult at times when Toronto cant get calls; their pursuit of high percentage field goal attempts must be relentless.
X-Factor: Jonas Valanciunas
Tonight’s X-Factor is the Lithuanian big man, Jonas Valanciunas. JV should be licking his chops as he has the chance to have a huge game against Utah. Kanter and Favors don’t have the length Valanciunas possesses therefore he should be able to shoot over the top with ease. Gobert has the length, but still lacks the experience and skill to be able to stick JV for extended periods of time.