Toronto • It was like some sort of sick experiment.
Somewhere, a mad scientist sought to answer an unasked question: “What if the Jazz played as poorly as possible against the defending champions?” The result: a 40-point halftime deficit, the largest in Jazz history. It was also the largest halftime lead in Raptors history, and the eighth-largest margin in NBA history.
Perhaps feeling bad for the earlier torture, the scientist then decided to give the Jazz one of their all-time best quarters: In that third quarter, the Jazz scored 49 points and made up nearly half of the gargantuan deficit.
In the end, though, one good quarter wasn’t enough to make up for the earlier sins, and the Jazz lost heavily to the Raptors on Sunday night, 130-110.
The first quarter started well enough, with the Jazz keeping the Raptors in check, but quickly spiraled. The key stretch involved four consecutive Jazz turnovers, which led directly to 11 Raptors points. By the 3:30 mark of the first quarter, the Jazz already had a 17-point deficit. Eventually, the run got to 30-5 in favor of the Raptors.
That, though, wasn’t all of the punishment the Jazz would dole out for themselves. Late in the second quarter, catastrophe struck again, and this run would be 29-6 in favor of the Raptors.
“Well obviously, we were awful,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “There were too many breakdowns and too many possessions where we lacked the urgency we needed.”
Everything that could go wrong, did. Jazz guards drove into traffic time and time again, getting the ball stripped or taking bad shots. Sometimes, they took open 3-pointers, but missed nearly all of them — meanwhile, the Raptors shot 13 of 19 from 3-point range in the first half. Even when the Jazz got wide-open dunks, like Rudy Gobert’s attempt only a couple of minutes into the game, they somehow clanked them off the back of the rim. And every single one of the Jazz’s mistakes, the Raptors were happy to take advantage of: They had 18 fast-break points in the first half.
And more than anything, that’s what made the third-quarter comeback attempt so baffling. Yes, clearly the Raptors had their foot off the gas, but the Jazz clearly showed they were capable of far, far better play. In that third quarter, the ball movement was humming — they had 15 assists in the third quarter compared to just five in all of the first half. They attacked with urgency and poise. At one point in the third quarter, the Raptors’ lead was cut to 16, and the largest comeback in NBA history didn’t seem outlandish.
But the necessary introduction of the bench at the end of the third stopped Utah’s tide, and a few minutes into the fourth, it was clear that the Jazz wouldn’t be winning the game. The final seven minutes went to the third-string lineup, including Nigel Williams-Goss, who got his first NBA points from the free-throw line.
Guard Mike Conley, after another poor game in Memphis, had a bounceback performance, leading the Jazz in scoring with 20 points, including 13 in that positive third quarter. Jeff Green had a nice scoring night off the bench, scoring 19.
Budding star Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 35 points, five rebounds and five assists. He nearly outscored the Jazz by himself in the first quarter, with 19 points to the whole Jazz team’s 20, many of those in transition. And that was one element, among many, that was at the Jazz’s list of items to improve for Monday’s matchup in Philadelphia.
“We’ve got certain things that we have as absolutes that we have to do every time, and tonight we didn’t do many of them at all in the first half,” Joe Ingles said. “When we do it, we’re really good and we don’t, we are what we were in the first half.”
Awful, to use Snyder’s choice of words.