It was all right. I’m pretty happy because we won. It’s not so much about how many points I get or rebounds I get. I try and support our main guys. I think we did a pretty job with that. —Jakob Poeltl
SALT LAKE CITY — Former University of Utah stars and Toronto first-round draft picks Delon Wright and Jakob Poeltl didn’t have their best games Friday at Vivint Arena in front of old friends, coaches and teammates. But at least they went home smiling as the Raptors ended their brutal 12-day road trip with a nine-point win over the Utah Jazz.
Wright was plagued by foul trouble and Poeltl never got untracked, but the way their team was shooting and the way DeMar DeRozan was playing, their help wasn’t really needed.
The Raptors shot a season-best 53.5 percent from the field, while DeRozan went off for a season-high 37 points, including more 3-pointers than he’s made the entire season (3) while shooting 14 of 14 from the free-throw line.
There was no stopping DeRozan as at least four Jazz players took a turn on him, including the team’s defensive specialists Thabo Sefolosha and Donovan Mitchell. DeRozan has never been known as a 3-point shooter (28 percent in his career), but he got loose for some at key times that hurt the Jazz.
“That was part of our emphasis and he’s taken efficient (3-point) shots,” said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. “He did a good job of getting to the free throw line, attacking the defense, being physical, initiating contact, getting them on the pump fake and he got 14 free throws. So that was huge.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder added, “He’s a very, very talented individual player. He’s very athletic and he’s able to get a shot and there were some that we made him hit tough shots.”
"We can always make it tougher for him, but sometimes he just makes shots," said Rodney Hood. "He's one of the toughest shot-makers in the league."
As for Wright and Poeltl, it was fun for them to each spend a couple of days in Salt Lake City where they each earned big honors for the Utes. Neither came close to matching their season averages of 8.4 and 8.0, respectively, but they enjoyed playing in their former hometown and in front of coach Larry Krystkowiak who was on hand for the game.
“It was good, Coach K, it was his first game to see me play,” said Wright, who finished with a season-low two points and one rebound after getting three fouls in the first half. “It wasn’t my best, but it was good to have some former coaches and teammates see me play.
Wright was frustrated by the fouls, saying “I kind of knew it would be something that would hold me back, but it happens.”
The 7-foot Poeltl, playing his second year in Toronto, finished with four points and three rebounds.
“It was all right. I’m pretty happy because we won,” he said. “It’s not so much about how many points I get or rebounds I get. I try and support our main guys. I think we did a pretty job with that.”
Both Wright and Poeltl received polite applause when they entered the game, Wright late in the first quarter and Poeltl at the start of the second quarter.
At least Poeltl gave the home crowd something to cheer about in an otherwise dismal fourth quarter. Poeltl missed a pair of free throws with 6:33 left to give the fans their free chicken sandwich.
As Poeltl was being interviewed, teammate Pascal Siakam whose locker was next to Poeltl, said, “Hey, he gave the fans free Chick-fil-A. He’s giving back to the city.
"Be sure you mention that.”
Consider it done.