SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz didn’t have their best player, Donovan Mitchell, Monday night due to an ankle injury, which must be the reason they lost to the Toronto Raptors by 13 points after trailing by as many as 26.
Except the Raptors didn’t have their best player either, as Kawhi Leonard also sat out the game with a sore ankle. And you couldn’t really blame Mitchell’s replacements either, as Royce O’Neale, who got the start, and Alec Burks, who came in off the bench, combined for an impressive 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting, with O’Neale scoring 11 and Burks a game-high 22 points.
No there were a host of reasons why the Raptors dominated the Jazz in winning for the fifth time in the last six years at Vivint Arena, improving their NBA-best record to 10-1 and handing the Jazz (now 0-4 at home) their fourth straight loss.
Perhaps the biggest was a lack of defense, which has plagued the Jazz all season. The Raptors shot in the 60 percent range from the field all night before finishing at 57 percent, their second-best shooting night of the season. They also made 39.4 percent of their 3-pointers and 93 percent of their free throws.
“We made mistakes on defense . . . just a lot of mistakes,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “What was giving us the most trouble was transition defense — there was space on the floor and we were getting driven. We needed to get back with more urgency and we needed to keep the ball out of the paint.”
The Jazz also struggled on the offensive end, outside of Burks, O’Neale, Rudy Gobert (6 of 9 from the field), and Derrick Favors (4 of 6).
Ricky Rubio’s shooting woes continued as he was 1 of 10, Joe Ingles sank just 3 of 13, Jae Crowder was 3 of 11 and Grayson Allen 3 of 8. That’s 10 of 42, a cool 23.8 percent from that foursome.
Snyder didn’t blame his team’s offense much but did acknowledge that poor shooting can lead to poor defense if the team isn’t disciplined, which is partly what happened Monday night.Comment on this story
“Shooting covers up a lot of sins and when you don’t shoot well you have to be even more committed to the defensive end,” he said. “We can’t rely on making shots in order to play defense. Defense is one of the things you largely have control over, more so than making shots, that’s for sure.”
When asked if there are any similarities for the Jazz in their last four games, all losses, Snyder again referred to defense.
“There are some things we are breaking down that is consistent across games,” he said. “But the larger thing is we’ve got to guard.”