TORONTO — A sellout crowd of nearly 20,000 fans jumped to their feet in Air Canada Centre Friday as Donovan Mitchell dribbled near midcourt with 12 seconds remaining.
Around the nine-second mark, Mitchell made his move with a crossover to get by Toronto Raptors guard Delon Wright before being hit with a double team from Kyle Lowry.
As Lowry committed, Mitchell made the correct read by spotting Ricky Rubio all alone beyond the arc. As soon as it hit Rubio’s hands, he let it fly. Bang!
Rubio’s go-ahead 3-pointer with five seconds remaining were his only points of the second half, but they helped the Utah Jazz hand the Toronto Raptors a rare 97-93 home defeat.
“It was easy to take that shot,” said Rubio, who ended with 14 points, six assists and six rebounds. “I was open and had to take it. There was no other option. It felt good.”
Just two nights ago, Rubio was also huge with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to help the Jazz beat Detroit in overtime, 98-95. Rubio’s pinpoint inbound pass to Joe Ingles for a clutch layup helped send that game into the extra period.
“I feel good playing in the crunch time,” Rubio said. “That’s when experience comes in and I know how to be good in those moments.”
Mitchell was also spectacular, posting 20 of his team-high 26 points in the second half. Making the right pass to Rubio came naturally instead of forcing it, even on a night where his shots were falling.
“Just have confidence in your teammates,” Mitchell said. “We take those shots all the time, and he makes big shots.
“He’s done that since he’s first got here and over his career. I knew they were going to double me and sag off him, so I made the right play instead of forcing it.”
With the win, Utah (20-28) has put together its first win streak since early December. The Jazz did it with defense, holding Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry to just five points on 2-for-14 shooting. DeMar DeRozan did finish with 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds, but shot just 7 for 22 from the field, including a missed mid-range jumper that could’ve tied the game with two seconds remaining.
Jonas Valanciunas went off for a season-high 28 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, but Jazz center Rudy Gobert also put up big numbers with 18 points, 15 boards and two blocks. Utah outscored Toronto 54-42 in the paint as Derrick Favors added 10 points and nine rebounds. Utah also pulled itself out of a 12-point deficit with a 30-21 run in the third quarter, even without Rodney Hood, who missed his fourth straight game with a lower leg contusion.
“That’s who we are, that’s the team we want to be, and if we defend like that every night, we’ve got a chance to win every night,” Gobert said. “Ricky hit some big shots tonight, Joe (Ingles) hit the big shot, but the main thing that you don’t see on the stats is that we got the shots that we needed."
Canadian superstar rapper Drake wasn’t in attendance for the “Welcome Toronto” game, where the Raptors sported black/gold uniforms in an OVO theme. The court was also black and gold with Drake, Toronto’s global ambassador, being the inspiration behind the specialty night.
Utah will now return to Salt Lake City to face the defending champion Golden State Warriors on their home court at 7 p.m. MST Tuesday. The Jazz will then break out their gradient City Edition court and uniforms, inspired by Utah’s natural beauty.
“We’re a work in progress, and I think as much as anything there’s a way that we have to play that’s going to make us competitive,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder after celebrating his 150th career victory. “It starts on the defensive end.”