SALT LAKE CITY — Except for last year’s lockout-shortened season, the NBA schedule-makers have sent the Utah Jazz on a long road trip to the East Coast in mid-November every year since 2001.
This season is no different as the Jazz will be gone for a week, playing four games in six days beginning Monday night in Toronto (Air Canada Centre, 5 p.m. MT). From Canada, the Jazz will go to Boston on Wednesday, Philadelphia on Friday and Washington on Saturday.
While the Jazz have had varying degrees of success on these November East Coast road trips — the trips are usually four games, but have been as many as five and as few as three — they’ve never come home without at least one victory.
They certainly don’t want to break the streak this year. And while they’d love to return home with four victories — as they did two years ago when they beat Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte — they’d probably be doing cartwheels if they could at least get a split this week.
That’s because so far this season the road has not been very kind to the Jazz. While they are unbeaten in three home games, the 3-4 Jazz have yet to win on the road, losing four straight, including a blowout loss Friday night in Denver.
In each of their four road losses, the Jazz have played well for stretches and were right there in the fourth quarter of three of the games, but they’ve been unable to sustain solid play. That’s what they’re looking for on this trip, according to coach Tyrone Corbin.
“It’s 48 minutes of team basketball — we can’t just have it for small stretches of the game,’’ Corbin said. “We’ve talked about it and talked about it and now we have to go out and do it. The guys understand the sense of urgency we have on the road and we’ve got to make sure we stay together. We’ve talked about it enough.’’
Jamaal Tinsley, who started in place of injured Mo Williams in Saturday night’s 94-81 win over Phoenix, echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“We’ve got to finish the games off,’’ Tinsley said. “When you go on the road you’ve got to treat every possession like your last possession and make sure we get good shots down the court every time. And when you’re not making shots, you’ve got to play defense.’’
The Jazz had a chance to win their first road game at New Orleans, but fell on a last-second shot and lost by two. The next night at San Antonio, they dug themselves a hole before coming back to tie the score at the end of the third quarter. Against Memphis, they led throughout the first half but faded down the stretch. In Friday's loss at Denver, the Jazz came out strong and led after a quarter before falling asleep in the second quarter and getting outscored by 16 and were never in the game after that.
In Toronto, the Jazz will be facing a struggling team that is just 1-5 on the season and stands in fifth place in the Atlantic Division.
Guard Kyle Lowry, picked up from Houston in the offseason, leads the team in four categories: points (18.3), assists (6.3), rebounds (5.8) and steals (3.0).
It says a lot about your team if your point guard is your leading rebounder. On the season the Raptors rank 28th in the NBA in rebounding.
However, Lowry may not play because of an ankle injury that has kept him out of the last two Raptor games. If he can’t go, Jose Calderon, last year’s starting point guard, will get the start.
Other Toronto starters include Demar DeRozan (18.3 ppg), Andrea Bargnani (17.2 ppg), Jonas Valanciunas (8.0 ppg) and Landry Fields (2.4 ppg).
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz are 23-8 all-time against Toronto, which is their best record against any team in the NBA. ... Last year, the Jazz lost their only meeting with the Raptors, 111-106 in double overtime in Salt Lake City. ... The Jazz haven’t lost in Toronto since the 2004 season. ... Toronto’s only victory came against Minnesota a week ago. That was the Timberwolves’ only loss until a defeat at Chicago Saturday night. ... If Williams, who leads the Jazz with a 16.4 ppg average, isn’t able to play because of the strained right abductor that kept him out Saturday, Tinsley will get the start again. ... The next home game for the Jazz is Nov. 19 against Houston. ... Toronto comes to Utah on Dec. 7.