The Toronto Raptors visit the Utah Jazz in a key contest for both teams regarding playoff standing in their respective conference races. The game is scheduled to tip off at 10 p.m. ET at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Ut
The Jazz have dropped three of their last four, including a 21-point loss at Phoenix on Friday night. The Suns moved into a tie with Utah for the top spot in the Western Conference standings with the win, with both teams 45-18.
Toronto has lost two in a row and is running out of time to move into the top 10 spots in the Eastern Conference to gain a spot in the play-in tournament. The Raptors are 26-37 and sit in a tie for 11th place in the East with the Chicago Bulls, three games behind the 10th-place Washington Wizards.
Looking at the NBA odds shows the Jazz as 6½-point favorites, with the over/under set at 218½.
Although the Raptors’ last two losses have come against Brooklyn and Denver, both top four teams in their respective conferences, the losses still count the same and knock Toronto closer to missing the postseason for the first time in eight seasons. With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Nick Nurse’s club must aim for wins in every game, no matter who the opponent is.
The Toronto defense hasn’t been what it was in the title-contending years of the last few seasons, allowing 111.3 points per game to rank 14th in the league. If the Raptors are going to make a miracle run, they’ll need to be better on that end of the floor.
Offensively, OG Anunoby has upped his production of late, averaging 23.3 points per game over the last six contests. The fourth-year forward is averaging 15.8 points to go along with 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals, all career-high averages.
Forward Pascal Siakam is the team’s leading scorer at 20.7 points per game, but he’s managed a total of 21 points over the last two games on 7-of-27 shooting. He must become more of a factor, especially with the team’s second-leading scorer, Fred VanVleet, in and out of the lineup as he recovers from a hip injury.
The Jazz have been the best home team in the league, going 26-4 in its 30 games in Salt Lake City. With that kind of advantage at Vivint Smart Home Arena, Utah is going to work hard to try to regain the top spot in the West and home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
There’s a chance that guard Donovan Mitchell could return, though he may be held out longer to recover from an ankle injury that has sidelined him for the last seven games. Mitchell is the ninth-leading scorer in the league at 26.4 points per game, and his presence on the court is key, as Utah has gone 3-4 since he suffered the injury.
Guard Jordan Clarkson has been instant offense off the bench, ranking second on the team in scoring at 17.4 points per game despite starting just once in his 59 appearances. If Mitchell is unable to go, Clarkson will need to shake off his slump that has seen him score 15 or fewer points in three of the last four games.
Center Rudy Gobert is the defensive anchor for the Jazz, averaging 13.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks to rank second in the league in both categories. But it could be his offense that is his biggest contribution in this one against a Raptors team that isn’t very strong in the paint.
Toronto has really struggled against top teams, as shown by its last two losses. The Raptors don’t have the overall firepower they need to make up for a defense that is lacking.
Utah has a real challenge to move ahead of Phoenix for the top record in the league, with the Suns coming on strong of late. Whether or not Mitchell plays, though, the Jazz should have enough to get another win at home in this one.
When doing your NBA betting, go with Utah to win and cover.