SALT LAKE CITY — Since Toronto joined the NBA in 1995, the Raptors haven’t been much more than a fly on the wall for the Utah Jazz to usually swat away when the two teams have met.
Before this season, the Jazz had won 25 of 33 matchups with Toronto, including not losing during a six-year period between 2005 and 2011 when they reeled off 12 straight victories.
But the Raptors aren’t the same team for the Jazz to kick around anymore.
For the second time this season, the Raptors grabbed a comfortable double-digit win over the Jazz, this time winning 94-79 before a crowd of 17,139 at EnergySolutions Arena Monday night.
Earlier in the season, the Raptors, who lead the NBA's Atlantic Division at 26-22, posted a 24-point win over the Jazz in Toronto. They had relatively little trouble putting away the Jazz in this one, leading all but a brief stretch late in the first quarter and early in the second quarter.
“We showed some fight, but I don’t think it was a 48-minute effort that we can be satisfied with,’’ said a disappointed Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin.
As for Toronto suddenly having the Jazz's number after all those years when the Jazz dominated, Corbin said, “Different teams, different times. But they are better and they seemed to have found a chemistry with this group ... and the guys are rallying around each other.’’
The Jazz were playing short-handed once again, with forwards Derrick Favors and Jeremy Evans both sitting out with injuries. The Jazz were forced to use rookie Rudy Gobert for a season-high 31 minutes and only had two players who played well — Marvin Williams and Alec Burks.
Williams finished with a season-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while Burks added 20 points on an array of drives to the basket. The only other Jazz player in double figures was Enes Kanter, who scored 10 points, but he only played 19 minutes because of his lack of defense on Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas, who had eight early points on him and finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.
“Whatever it was, Enes didn’t have the energy tonight and Valanciunas got going early on him,’’ Corbin said.
While Valanciunas was big for the Raptors during the early stages of Monday's game, guard DeMar DeRozan heated up in the second half when the Jazz were making a late run. DeRozan, a fifth-year pro out of USC who was named to the Eastern Conference's All-Star team last week, scored a team-high 23 points, including nine in the fourth quarter.
“I thought DeMar DeRozan was very efficient in his game,’’ said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. “He made the game look easy for himself and I really like the way he’s growing as a player.’’
“I try and be aggressive, try and do everything ... rebound, pass to my teammates,’’ DeRozan said. “Just do a little bit of everything.’’
The Raptors jumped out to early leads of 10-2 and 17-8 in front of a lethargic Jazz team and a crowd that seemed to have used up all of its energy three nights earlier when former coach Jerry Sloan was honored.
Then Williams and Burks keyed Utah’s best spurt of the night as Williams scored eight points in the final five minutes of the quarter and Burks came in and scored four in the final 1:16 to give the Jazz a 27-24 lead at the end of the period.4 comments on this story
However, behind John Salmons (13 points on the night), the Raptors jumped back on top in the second quarter, moving out to a 42-35 lead at the midway point and leading 55-44 at the half.
The Raptors extended their lead to 13 in the third quarter before the Jazz made a run early in the fourth quarter fueled by Burks, who made a pair of his twisty, acrobatic drives in the lane to pull the Jazz within three at 73-70. Burks had another chance to cut the lead when he got to the hoop on a drive, but his floater from 5 feet bounced off the back of the iron.
The Jazz were still within five at 81-76 with 4:14 left when DeRozan showed why he is an All-Star as he sank back-to-back jumpers, the second from 3-point range, to push the lead to 10. The Raptors coasted home from there.
Now the Jazz (16-32) have their third three-day break between games in as many weeks before playing at Dallas on Friday night. Then it’s back home to play two-time defending NBA champion Miami Saturday night.