Raptors open busy month vs. visiting Jazz
The Toronto Raptors' schedule will become busier and tougher in December, starting with a home game Sunday against the Utah Jazz.
The Raptors, who extended their winning streak to a season-best six games with a 90-83 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday, will play 10 of their 16 games in December against teams that currently have a .500 or better record. The Raptors are 2-4 against teams with winning records this season.
Serge Ibaka (sprained ankle) and Kyle Lowry (fractured thumb) could return to the lineup Sunday. Each has missed 10 games.
The Jazz are in the midst of a five-game road trip that began 0-2 before they defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 103-94 on Friday.
The Raptors have won 10 of the past 12 meetings with the Jazz and enter Sunday on an eight-game home winning streak, a franchise record to start a season.
With the degree of difficulty increasing in their schedule, the Raptors can take comfort that 11 games in their busiest month of the season are at home.
An impressive aspect of the Raptors' play this season has been tenacious defense that helps them through games like Friday when the shooting is cold. The Raptors had 16 steals against the Magic, including a career-best seven by Fred VanVleet, who also had 22 points.
"I think everyone is just really tied in on what we are doing," said Norman Powell, who scored a career-best 33 points Friday -- with 19 coming in the third quarter.
"Really focused on how we are changing defenses, who is guarding who, how we need to be helping one another, communicating in and out of timeouts."
The Jazz were bolstered Friday with the return of Ed Davis, a forward/center who had missed 12 games with a fractured left fibula.
He is expected to improve the backup big-man rotation that has relied on 21-year-old Tony Bradley and forward Jeff Green in his absence.
"Ed brings us consistency of competitiveness, rebounding and selflessness," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "More than anything, he's going to do whatever the team needs to do to win."
Davis had no points but grabbed five rebounds on Friday.
The Jazz had a slow start against the Grizzlies, trailing 55-40 at halftime. They opened the third quarter with an 18-2 run, and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 16 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter.
Donovan Mitchell (7-for-22, 20 points) and Mike Conley (3-for-13, eight points) struggled shooting, so Bogdanovic (12-for-20) became the offensive focus.
"It shows how unselfish we are, especially Donovan," Bogdanovic said.
"He's our best player, he's supposed to take the last shots in the last couple of minutes. But at the end of the game, he told me to take the ball, take the last shot. Today, the coaching staff and Donovan and Mike put me in a situation, put the ball in my hands to work. It shows how good they are."
Conley added: "I couldn't make a shot, so I have to do something."
The Raptors defense will give the Jazz a more difficult challenge Sunday.
"You give yourself a chance on any given night (with defense like that)," VanVleet said after Toronto beat Orlando on Friday.
--Field Level Media
Updated December 1, 2019