What to observe for as Raptors look to enhance play-in possibilities vs. Jazz


The gauntlet of a schedule the Toronto Raptors are at present within the midst of continues Saturday night time as they tackle the Utah Jazz at 10:00 p.m. ET on Sportsnet 360.

It is the beginning of a gruelling back-to-back set that can see the Raptors play a freshly-returned LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday.

The Raptors have misplaced two straight, and with their play-in possibilities hanging on by a thread, it’s not an exaggeration to say their playoff hopes might be decided by this weekends’ duo of contests.

It gained’t be simple, with Saturday’s recreation, specifically, trying very difficult because the Jazz will not be solely tied for the most effective file within the NBA, but in addition personal the most effective internet score at plus-8.9.

It is no cakewalk, however that is what’s in entrance of the Raptors proper now they usually’ll don’t have any selection however to attempt to make their method via it efficiently.

With simply 9 video games remaining of their common season, they’re greater than probably caught in no man’s land as they don’t have sufficient time to actually tank and contend for a top-five draft choose with simply 9 video games remaining of their common season.

Right here’s a have a look at three issues to observe for in Saturday’s recreation in opposition to Utah.

Should get one in all these back-to-back video games

The Raptors are slipping additional and additional behind the at present No. 10-seeded Washington Wizards and now discover themselves three video games again of them.

Toronto is at present in a useless tie for eleventh within the Japanese Convention with the Chicago Bulls, who’re additionally reeling, however because the Bulls personal the tiebreaker between the 2 groups, the Raptors will nonetheless must leapfrog them totally to take eleventh place, whereby the duty of monitoring down the Wizards will then should be tackled.

Because of this it’s essential that the Raptors discover a approach to a minimum of spilt this back-to-back.

Subsequent week the Raptors have a doubtlessly essential matchup with the Wizards on Thursday they usually can sick afford to drop additional than three video games again of Washington heading into that showdown.

So the Raptors want a minimum of one — and ideally — two wins right here in opposition to Utah and Los Angeles in an effort to preserve tempo.

Jazz a bit susceptible?

Nearly as good because the Jazz have been this season, they’ve appeared a bit susceptible of late.

Utah is simply 7-7 in its final 14 video games with losses throughout this span to the Minnesota Timberwolves of all groups.

The Jazz have been bit by the harm bug of late with Mike Conley lacking Friday’s recreation with hamstring tightness and Donovan Mitchell additionally probably lacking Saturday’s contest coping with an ankle harm.

That is one thing of a break for the Raptors, who must discover a approach to make the most of a Jazz group that can probably be fairly shorthanded.

What Toronto can’t do, nonetheless, is take Utah flippantly.

Even with out all-stars Conley and Mitchell the Jazz nonetheless have weapons like Bojan Bogdanovic and fellow all-star Rudy Gobert, of whom Toronto’s bigs might be in powerful in opposition to.

“I believe [when he’s] on offence, clearly, to not let him roll behind you as a result of they will simply throw the ball excessive on you,” stated Raptors centre Khem Birch throughout shootaround Saturday of the challenges Gobert presents.

“I am not as tall as him and he has an extended wingspan — he is a tall participant. So, clearly, to not permit him to roll in behind.

“And [when he’s] on defence I simply really feel like to not problem him on the rim. Simply to most likely area him out, form of take him off the dribble or simply work on my contact pictures greater than attacking the rim.”

Damage report

Sadly for the Raptors, as shorthanded because the Jazz might be Saturday night time, they are going to be much more so.

Toronto might be with out Chris Boucher (knee sprain), Kyle Lowry (relaxation), Gary Trent Jr. (leg contusion) and Paul Watson Jr. (knee tendinitis) Saturday.

Neither Boucher nor Watson made the journey out west so their standing isn’t stunning. As for the opposite two, nonetheless, it’s a little bit disappointing that they’re unable to go.

For Trent, he travelled with the group but it surely looks like his harm restoration isn’t going in addition to the group thought it’d.

And in Lowry’s case, a relaxation day throughout a back-to-back isn’t essentially unusual across the NBA — notably for 35-year-old veterans with as a lot mileage on the physique as he has — however given the stakes at hand for the Raptors’ season, not having the most effective participant in franchise historical past on the market on Saturday appears odd.

As talked about earlier than, the Raptors solely have 9 video games left so a concerted effort to tank feels prefer it’s method too late to take action now.

Except there actually is a big distinction between a No. 8 choose in comparison with No. 9, resting Lowry in a key recreation with post-season possibilities nonetheless alive — if even simply barely — appears unusual.

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