By: Josh Weinstein
The Toronto Raptors (4-3) return to the court on Friday night in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz (5-3) for the sixth and final game of their Western Conference road trip. With a win, Toronto can finish its road trip with an even .500 record (3-3).
After an embarrassing and uncharacteristic performance against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, the Raptors will need to have a bounce-back game on both ends to pull out a victory in Utah, especially with how the Jazz have started the season at home. They enter the game with a perfect 5-0 home record and boast one of the league's strongest defences anchored by Rudy Gobert.
It will be interesting to see how DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry respond after mediocre performances in Denver. DeRozan, in particular, tends to have big games after lacklustre offensive performances. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the USC product has only scored less than 20 points in consecutive games twice (excluding the postseason). That's further proof of how consistent DeRozan's been as a volume scorer in recent seasons. If you had to bet on it, expect a strong showing from the Raptors star.
For the most part, Lowry hasn't been playing like himself this season. He hasn't reached the twenty point plateau yet through seven games and has struggled with his shooting stroke. If you know Lowry well, you also know it's only a matter of time before the three-time all-star has a breakout game. That type of outing would be welcomed with open arms, especially against a strong defensive team like the Jazz.
Speaking of the Jazz, they're still adapting to life without Gordon Hayward. Since arriving in Utah, point guard Ricky Rubio has averaged a career-high 17.5 points per game, while showing off his newfound touch from long-range (37 percent on three-pointers). Couple Rubio's offensive resurgence with the "Stifle Tower" occupying the paint and the Jazz are once again proving to be a very challenging team to play, even without Hayward.
Here are the projected starting lineups ahead of Friday's 9 PM ET tip-off:
- PG Kyle Lowry
- SG DeMar DeRozan
- SF Norman Powell
- PF Serge Ibaka
- C Jonas Valanciunas
- PG Ricky Rubio
- SG Donovan Mitchell
- SF Joe Ingles
- PF Derrick Favors
- C Rudy Gobert