Before I get into a preview of the Toronto game, I want to take a quick look back at the performance by the Utah Jazz against the New York Knicks. First of all, you don’t have to be a genius to realize that the Jazz could just not match up with the new-look Knicks. On the first few possessions it looked like the Jazz were ready to give the Knicks fits, as the Jazz scored on the interior and were 4-4 to open up. Then the turnovers began. The Jazz committed 3 consecutive turnovers, and the game went from a 9-8 Knicks lead to an 18-8 Knicks lead in the blink of an eye. Although all of that happened within the first 5 minutes of the game, it was a microcosm of the way things were throughout. The Jazz did not struggle scoring points, as they scored 109, but they simply could not get stops against this potent Knicks offense. STAT and Melo each had amazing performances, as they both scored over 30 points and shot at least 75% from the field. Sometimes you play a team who’s just on fire. Last night the Knicks were that team. So yes, you can blame the Jazz for a lack of effort on the defensive end, but the Knicks were just too good for it to matter anyways.
On the positive side, I want to give mention to Al Jefferson on his 36 point 12 rebound performance. He is playing like an absolute monster lately, and I am excited to see what this team can do once they pull things together. Shaking the team up like the Jazz did is never an easy thing to deal with in the middle of the season, especially when you lose your Hall-of-Fame coach and your franchise point guard. In the long run, though, the Jazz could be a dangerous team if they play like they’re capable of. Now let’s look forward to the Raptors.
The last time the Jazz played the Raptors, the NBA season was still very young, the Jazz looked like a real contender, and the Raptors looked like a bottom-feeder. Since that game in November all of those things have changed, except for the Raptors being a bottom-feeder, and this game should turn out to be very interesting. Both teams are playing equally badly right now, and it is going to be fun to see which team wants the game more. The Jazz obviously have more to play for as they are still mathematically in the thick of things in the Western Conference. The Raptors, on the other hand, get to play the spoiler role, which totally removes all of the pressure from this team. In my opinion, that means danger for the Jazz.
The Raptors have a team which is full of talent, but despite that, they have only managed to notch 17 wins on the season. This team is led by Andrea Bargnani, the former number one overall pick, who is scoring over 22 points a game! When I saw this, I was taken aback for a second. I didn’t realize how good this guy was playing, and he is definitely going to pose a threat to the Jazz. In their first meeting, Bargs scored 26 points and had 9 rebounds. Outside of Bargnani, the Raptors also have Demar Derozan, and Jose Calderon, who are both players that are capable of big games.
If the Knicks game is any indication of how the Jazz will play perimeter defense, then the Jazz could be in a world of trouble against the Raps. The Raptors have some good shooters, and they are not afraid to let the 3-ball fly. Now that the Raptors are basically out of the playoff race, they are going to shoot 3′s even more, especially if the game is close. Because the pressure is off of them, they are going to try and put the Jazz in difficult positions by taking riskier shots with bigger rewards. Hopefully, though, the Jazz can establish the flow of the game early, and they can put the Raptors in the rear-view mirror for a majority of the game.
If the Jazz cannot pull this game out, I am willing to say that the Jazz are as good as out from the playoffs. No, they will not be mathematically eliminated, but their confidence will be shot. If they can’t beat a 17-win team in a must-win spot, how will this team be able to move forward with a positive attitude? What do all of you fans from Jazz Nation think? Will a loss against the Raptors spell GAME OVER for the Jazz?