Kyle Lowry left the game early with right knee pain (according to Raptors media relations), but it didn’t matter as Toronto clamped down on defense and rolled to the inevitable 94-79 victory in Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday night.
The Jazz showed some life as they when on a 12-4 run to close out the first quarter and took a 27-24 lead, but after that, the Raptors played defense and scoring became a chore the Jazz were just not up to. Utah only scored 52 more points after the first quarter and the Raptors were never really threatened.
“(Lowry) had a little soreness in his shin,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “So out of precaution, we kept him out in the second half. It was really bugging him.”
“Nothing serious, a little soreness, that’s about it,” Lowry said. “It has been about a week. I don’t complain about it. We are doing treatment on it tonight. I felt I couldn’t help my team as much as I wanted to and I trusted my teammates would get the job done and that’s what they did tonight.”
Lowry shot 1-8 from the field for 2 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 25 minutes before he asked to come out of the game.
This game featured two of Europe’s rising big men stars, but just like in prior international competitions, it was the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas dominating the Jazz center Enes Kanter. Toronto started the game going inside and Valanciunas scored over Kanter on his first two touches. Valanciunas finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Kanter scored 10 points and collected 3 boards, however, after 20 minutes Kanter was pulled in favor of Rudy Gobert who pulled in 8 boards, blocked 3 shots, but didn’t score.
“We juiced him up a little bit this morning (by) teasing (Valanciunas) about Kanter,” Casey said. “How Kanter got after him in the Euro-League, so he came out and played. He did a good job of taking it to him and being physical.”
Amir Johnson also took advantage of Kanter early, making the layup and drawing the personal foul on the team’s third basket as Kanter struggled defensively against the Raptors big men. Johnson finishing with the 11 point 11 rebound double-double.
The freshly-minted All-Star DeMar DeRozan scored his expected 23 points on 7-15 shooting and 7-7 from the free throw line and has so often been the case for the Raptors this season, their bench came through with 35 big points. John Salmons scoring 13 points and Greivis Vasquez adding 12 more.
“DeMar DeRozan tonight was very efficient in his game,” Casey said. “He made the game look easy for himself and I really like the way he is growing as a player.”
The Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward shooting slumps continued as the 2 young stars only scored 8 points each on a combined 7-25 from the field. Both players are shooting below 30 percent over the past 5 games.
Marvin Williams scored a season-high 23 points and Alec Burks added 20 more off the bench, but no one else stepped up to help them. Casey lamenting the fact his team let anyone score on them tonight.
“Defensively we can get better on a guy like Alec Burks,” Casey said. “He came off the bench and really took it to us.”
With the win, the Raptors have a record of 14-12 on the road and 9-10 against the Western Conference. At 26-22, they lead the Atlantic Division by 4 games and are in a virtual tie for third place with the Hawks in the Eastern Conference. They head to Sacramento for a game against Rudy Gay and the Kings on Wednesday.
The Jazz are tied for last place in the West with Sacramento at 16-32 and play in Dallas on Friday.
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