Raptors post historic 1st half, outplay the Jazz to stay perfect at home

The Toronto Raptors silenced the Utah Jazz 130-110 en route to their seventh straight win while remaining undefeated in nine home games this season.

Toronto’s Pascal Siakam kept cruising, posting a team-high 35 points while shooting just under 64 per cent from the field. Fred VanVleet also chipped in with a 21-point, 11-assist double double.

History was on the Raptors’ side heading into the game. Since the 2013-14 season, the Raptors and the Jazz have met 13 times. Toronto has gone on to win 11 of those meetings. Utah had gone 6-4 over its last 10 games while sitting sixth in a front-loaded Western Conference.

Siakam had the fire burning early, needing only 12 minutes to post 19 points. Utah as a whole, meanwhile, was able to muster just 20 points through that same timeframe.

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The Raptors did not take their foot off the gas from there. They outdid their 37 points in the first with a 40-point second quarter. Coupled with Utah crawling its way to just 17 points in the second quarter, the Raptors went into halftime holding onto a 77-37 lead.

That 40-point difference also marked the franchise’s largest lead ever at a half.

Prior to Sunday’s game, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse pointed out that the team’s recent success has been down to a one-two combo of smart shooting and decisive playmaking. Short of labelling it “back-to-basics,” Nurse says, “we’re back to our foundational stuff and that’s what’s probably carrying us through in the guts of the game.”

Toronto’s decisive ball distribution was evident throughout the game, with the team dishing out 36 assists while shooting a tad under 53 per cent from both the field and beyond three-point-range. Outside of Dewan Hernandez, who put up just two points, every Raptor that registered a point did so in the double digits.

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For Utah, it was a game of opposites attract. While the Raptors excelled in controlling the ball, the Jazz fumbled their way to 18 turnovers while giving Toronto a stab at 14 steals. The bulk of those steals were gobbled up by OG Anunoby and Norman Powell with four apiece.

The tables were turned over instantly at the start of the third quarter. Utah came firing out of the gate, knocking down 16 of its first 19 attempts. Stealing a page out the Raptors’ playbook, the Jazz used effective playmaking to whittle down Toronto’s lead, posting a massive 49 points to round off the quarter, while outscoring Toronto 49-30. Their offence over that time was highlighted by 13 points by Mike Conley and 11 points by Donovan Mitchell.

A 40-point Raptors lead was cut down to 21, something Nurse chuckled at while asking to avoid talking about post-game.

There was a bright spot for the Raptors in the third. Serge Ibaka, making his return to the court for the first time since suffering a right ankle sprain against the New Orleans Pelicans on Nov. 8, started showing glimpses of his usual self after spending the first half shaking off the proverbial rust. He rounded off his first game back with a respectable 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the field while going 2-5 from the land beyond.

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Despite outscoring Toronto 24-23 in the fourth, the hole Utah had dug itself was too deep to climb out of.

The Utah loss puts them below .500 on their current five-game road trip, in which their only win has come against the lowly Memphis Grizzlies. The road doesn’t get any easier for the Jazz. They will round out their road trip in Philadelphia on Monday before heading home to try and tackle the west-leading Los Angeles Lakers.

The Raptors, meantime, will look to keep their flawless record at home intact when they play host to the Miami Heat on Tuesday before welcoming the Rocket’s duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook on Thursday.

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