Credit to the Jazz in the third quarter of Sunday night’s contest against the Raptors. In just those 12 minutes, Utah scored 49 points, while shooting 72 percent from the field and 80 percent from three. They also had 15 assists against zero turnovers, and grabbed 10 boards, including three on the offensive end. It was total domination, the kind of impressive basketball one would expect from a team many picked as favourites in the Western Conference.
Unfortunately for Utah, it didn’t mean a thing. Not after they gave up 77 points to Toronto in the first half. And definitely not after they fell behind by as many as 40 points. Even a 49-point frame — which likely would have made for a mighty comeback under almost any other circumstances — was unable to deter the Raptors in this one. They went on to an eventually casual 130-110 win against the Jazz.
Raptors 77, Jazz 37 at the half.
– Biggest halftime lead in the NBA this season
– Biggest halftime lead in Raptors history.
– Biggest halftime deficit in Jazz history
– Tied for 8th-biggest halftime margin in NBA history
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) December 2, 2019
After a sluggish night on Friday against the Magic, Pascal Siakam decided to run wild to open this one. His 19 first quarter points set the pace for the Raps, coming as they did in a complete mix of his now-usual arsenal. Siakam drained a pair of threes, roasted defenders in the post, got out in transition, and made the right reads for passes when the inevitable double-team from Rudy Gobert arrived. In fact, Pascal’s offense was so explosive in that first frame it simultaneously got Marc Gasol 11 points — off three 3s and a dunk — good for the second-most points he’s scored in a single game all season. Gasol didn’t score again against the Jazz, but Toronto had so thoroughly disheartened them in the first half it felt like they’d just decline to show up for the second.
Of course, as mentioned, that was not the case. The Jazz did play in the third, and play hard. Leading the way was their backcourt of Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell, who went off for 24 combined points and five assists. Coupled with the Raptors decidedly lackadaisical play — and who can blame them really? — the Jazz managed to make Toronto break a sweat a little bit, and shrunk the lead down to 16 points. Afterwards coach Nick Nurse declined to elaborate further on his team’s slow performance; meanwhile Gasol said only, “select all and delete it straight to the trash.” But could the Raptors actually blow the game after such a great first half? No, no they could not.
Thanks to the steady play of Fred VanVleet, the Raptors weren’t going to be shaken for long. Behind his 21 points and 11 assists (with zero turnovers), Toronto was always ready to bounce back from whatever swing the Jazz took. It didn’t hurt of course the Siakam also continued to cook, finishing the night with 35 points on a comical 14-for-22 line (plus 5-of-9 from deep). Toronto’s leading duo had help of course — no one can run a score up like that without it.
For one, the Raptors’ bench unit got a boost from the return of Serge Ibaka. While the veteran big man definitely looked rusty to start, his return was a success overall. Ibaka had 13 points (on an excited 5-for-14 shooting) to go with four rebounds. For two, the pair of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Terence Davis continued their strong run of play, both affecting the game in their preferred way. For Rondae it meant operating out of the post and making some canny passes; for Davis, he attacked from the top of the circle and hitting open 3s. For their efforts, RHJ had 10-6-2 to Davis’ 13-4-3 as the obvious mainstays of Toronto’s bench. And for three, let’s not forget the contributions of Norman Powell, with his efficient 6-of-12 night for 15 points, and OG Anunoby who terrorized the passing lanes again for four steals.
The Raptors’ lead did shrink to as low as 15 points in the fourth, but for the final 12-18 minutes of the game, the only thing to do was name-check who was getting minutes for both teams. Eventually, thanks to Ibaka’s return, Chris Boucher got some burn for Toronto later in garbage time, along with Malcolm Miller, Dewan Hernandez, Oshae Brissett, and Shamorie Ponds; the Jazz, meanwhile, rolled out lineups featuring players only dedicated Jazz-heads could care about. Is anyone outside of the state of Utah eager to know what Tony Bradley or Nigel Williams-Goss were up to in this game? I submit: no, no one outside of the state of Utah cares.
So that does it. The Raptors win in a laugher and move to 15-4 on the season. The Jazz, despite their aspirations, are now 12-8 and are probably asking themselve some questions. Toronto is only wondering when Kyle Lowry gets back and just how much better this team can get then. Giddy up.