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Utah Jazz lose third straight thanks to killer game by Kyle Lowry

SALT LAKE CITY — Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan didn't exactly spread Christmas cheer to Utah during their visit. In fact, the Grinch-like pair made life miserable on the Utah Jazz and their fans in more ways than one in the Toronto Raptors’ 104-98 win Friday night.

First off, the Raptors’ dynamic duo took turns torching the Jazz’s defense at Vivint Arena, with Lowry going off for 36 points and DeRozan scoring 24 while also becoming a new Utah fan villain.

On top of that, Lowry and DeRozan made the Jazz and their faithful, all of whom are suffering from injury fatigue, wonder how sweet it might be if/when their top two guards play together again.

While that scenario is who-knows-how-long away for the Jazz because of George Hill’s lingering toe issue and Rodney Hood’s ongoing illness and hamstring woes, having its best backcourt proved to be all Toronto needed to head back North with an impressive victory.

"Our guys fought through it," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "Kyle gets stitches, comes back, puts on a performance that will be remembered."

DeRozan scored 16 of his points in the first half to boost the Raptors to a 56-51 halftime lead and then, after a nice push by Utah, Lowry finished off the Jazz with a sensational fourth quarter.

That led to an easy recap of the biggest difference between the third quarter — when Utah rallied — and the fourth quarter — when Toronto’s high-powered offense overpowered the Jazz’s stingy defense — for Jazz coach Quin Snyder.

“How many minutes did Kyle Lowry play in the third quarter?” Snyder asked during his postgame press conference.

As some reporters responded about how little Lowry played in the third, the Jazz coach replied, “That’s your answer.”

That answer, by the way, is three minutes and 46 seconds.

Lowry, who got two stitches in the lip during the third quarter, returned to play all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter when the 6-1 guard shredded a Utah defense that sorely missed the 6-3 Hill, who guarded Lowry well for the Pacers in the playoffs last spring, and 6-6 backup guard Dante Exum.

“Kyle Lowry changed the game in the fourth quarter,” Snyder said.

Lowry almost had as many points in the fourth as the Jazz, who only scored 24 including an abysmal stretch when Rudy Gobert missed two point-blank shots in a row, Joe Ingles and Lyles were off from distance, Ingles botched a layup, the team suffered a shot-clock violation and Joe Johnson turned the ball over.

That was all part of a 12-2 run the Raptors used to seize control of the game.

"We needed to win," Lowry said. "They made a run when I went out and I sat back and wanted to get a win. That's all."

Meanwhile, Lowry hit just about everything he threw up. The All-Star point guard made 15 of 20 shots overall and drilled nine of 10 attempts in the final 12 minutes.

“He’s an All-Star. He makes those kind of plays some nights and tonight was just one of those nights,” Jazz point guard Shelvin Mack said. “He did a good job of attacking and got everyone else involved. Today’s game came down to making and missing shots and Kyle Lowry made some tough shots.”

Toronto, which has an even better offensive rating than Golden State, surpassed the 100-point mark for the 16th straight game thanks to its 32-point fourth quarter.

With Lowry out for most of the third, by the way, the Raptors only scored 16 in the third quarter.

Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 23 points and Canadian native Trey Lyles provided a nice spark in the third quarter when he scored 12 of his 19 points. Jazz fans were on DeRozan’s case after he got called for a flagrant-one penalty after clobbering Lyles from behind in the third quarter.

Mack, who had a rough defensive night, added 17 points, five assists and four rebounds. Center Rudy Gobert upped his double-double streak to 10 straight with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

Not only were the Jazz without Hill, Exum and Alec Burks, but Rodney Hood only played 13 minutes because of his ongoing illness.

“He’s sick. Hopefully he gets better. He went after it. It’s a big deal,” an appreciative Snyder said of Hood. “He gave us as everything he had. His teammates and me appreciated that and his competitiveness.”

Snyder also expressed gratitude to his players, who take an 18-13 record into the short Christmas break despite a plethora of health issues.

“Given what these guys have gone through from an adversity standpoint through the first third of the season,” Snyder said, “I think these guys have done really, really good.”

The Jazz are giving their players Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off to be with loved ones. The team will reunite Monday to prepare for a Tuesday road game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Snyder doesn’t want his players to focus on basketball over the weekend.

“It’s good for our guys to be grateful that they’re playing here (in Utah), that they have the teammates they have. I know I feel that way about our group,” Snyder said. “… More than anything, I want these next two days to be about friends and family and gratitude.”