The Raptors will play the final game of a six-game road trip when they travel to Utah on Friday night. Although they’re currently seventh best in defensive efficiency this season, Toronto could do nothing to stop the Denver Nuggets in their last game, giving up 129 points off 53% shooting from the field and allowing a staggering 50% of shots from deep to fall. The Raptors need to find the defensive toughness that allowed a combined 177 points in their wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Utah are in good form coming into this game, winning their last three. Defense has also been their strong suit, as the Jazz find themselves second in points allowed and third in defensive efficiency. Opposing teams have only managed a 91-point average in their last three games, and Utah will look to impose their will once more against the Raptors.
Keys to the game
Ricky Rubio – The Spaniard has been improving consistently since joining in free agency with his passing, but surprisingly through scoring as well. He’s the team leader in points and had his first 30-point outing of the season in the Jazz’s last outing, an overtime win over Portland.
Defensive toughness – Utah’s trademark rearguard has been in fine form this season. The Raptors have to try to match that defensive tenacity to keep the game close and try to steal a win.
Road trip – The Raptors have played five games on the road, and will make it six straight on Friday night. Do they still have enough in the tank to keep this game close? Perhaps the blowout to the Nuggets was a sign of fatigue, which could spell more trouble against the Jazz.
Matchup to watch
Ricky Rubio vs Kyle Lowry – One of the main reasons these two teams play good defense is the tenacity of their point guards, so this should be an exciting matchup on Friday night.
Toronto Raptors projected lineup
PG – Kyle Lowry | SG – DeMar DeRozan | SF – Norman Powell | PF – Serge Ibaka | C – Jonas Valanciunas |
Utah Jazz projected lineup
PG – Ricky Rubio | SG – Rodney Hood | SF – Joe Ingles | PF – Derrick Favors | C – Rudy Gobert |
This game won’t be a high-scoring affair, but Rudy Gobert is good for a double-double a night, and has averaged four blocks in his last five. He’ll have a solid game offensively and shine again on defense.
Utah are 1.5-point favorites in this game, but they’ve been blowing teams out without scoring a lot of points thanks to their suffocating defense. They’ll cover the spread.
The Toronto Raptors will find it tough going up against an in-form Jazz team playing on their own court. They’ll keep it competitive, but will drop this game by a few.
The game will be shown on ATRM and Sportsnet. Tip-off is at 9pm ET.
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