10 things I saw from Raptors-Jazz (Nov. 3)

  1. Bounceback: The Raptors rebounded from that pathetic effort vs. DEN with an energetic and defensively-focused game against the Jazz to close the road trip 3–3.
  2. Setting the tone: Kyle Lowry was a man possessed in the first quarter as he split apart Utah’s gritty defense with threes and incisive passes. That aggression helped the rest of the team settle into their game. Lowry then shifted into playmaker mode and was strong throughout, although there was one scary moment where his chin bounced a foot off the court after he was bumped by Donovan Mitchell on a drive.
  3. Scoring binge: DeMar DeRozan exploded for 17 in the third, which included three triples (one 4-point play) and a number of shot fakes leading to free throws. DeRozan was largely poor on defense, allowing way too much dribble penetration to Joe Ingles, but he more than made up for it on offense with a stop-and-go game that the Jazz couldn’t cope with. Teams that are built to concede midrange shots really have a hard time against DeRozan, especially when they decide to close out.
  4. Underrated: Jonas Valanciunas battled foul trouble and got yammed on but he had a really strong game in the paint against Rudy Gobert. He used his strength to his advantage as he stayed attached to Gobert, didn’t let him explode, then used his length to contest. Valanciunas was also strong on the glass and efficient with his limited post touches. He plays well against rim running centers.
  5. Bench boost: CJ Miles had the flu (like me), which opened up minutes for Pascal Siakam to show off his SF skills and he was tremendous on both ends. On offense, Siakam showed more decisiveness by attacking right off the catch. It helps to have him in the left corner or straight on so he can attack closeouts with his dominant right hand. He either goes for the layup or he spins off the pressure for his soft hook. His motor and switchability on defense is always appreciated.
  6. Finding a balance: This was Norman Powell’s best game of the year. He was a pest on defense despite battling a really strict whistle, and his two steals in the third, along with a three, helped the Raptors pull ahead. Powell took his threes confidently and attacked relentlessly in transition. More of this.
  7. Smart defense: Dwane Casey made the right adjustment to have the Raptors switch almost everything in the second half. Mitchell went Michael Jordan for a bit in the third but otherwise the Jazz were completely stymied. Credit the Raptors for communicating well and shuffling for favorable assignments off the ball when the initial switch left a wing on a big. Lowry was especially talkative.
  8. Down note: Serge Ibaka was uncharacteristically poor on switches onto smaller guards and Siakam closed out most of the fourth. Maybe the knee is still sore?
  9. Rotation notes: Bebe Nogueira and Jakob Poeltl split backup minutes … Lowry and DeRozan played more with the bench … OG Anunoby is a gamer.
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