SALT LAKE CITY — Finally some NBA talent entered Vivint Arena.
After smoking the Perth Wildcats of Australiaby 58 points on Saturday, the Utah Jazz welcomed the Toronto Raptors for preseason Game No. 2 on Tuesday.
Despite falling behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, Utah rallied back to win the game 105-90 and improve to 2-0 in preseason action. Four Jazz players reached double figures, led by birthday boy Joe Ingles with 24 points off five treys.
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell finished some highlight plays but struggled to find a groove offensively with 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting in 25 minutes. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert swatted five shots to go along with 13 points and 10 boards, while Ricky Rubio contributed 15 points in 25 minutes.
To Toronto’s credit, Kawhi Leonard didn’t suit up for the second half after going for 17 points and five rebounds in the first two quarters as the Raptors held a 58-49 halftime edge. Jonas Valanciunas also contributed 18 points and nine rebounds on the night to lead the visiting team.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Tuesday’s game:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Ingles celebrated his 31st birthday against Toronto. Ingles missed the preseason opener against the Perth Wildcats of Australia with lower leg soreness, but returned to the lineup versus Toronto. Ingles has seemingly gained the respect of his peers after a career-high season, where he finished fifth in 3-point shooting percentage, while connecting at a 44 percent clip. Ingles returned to post 13 of his game-high 24 points during the second quarter of his first preseason game. He caught fire near the end of the first half with back-to-back triples plus an and-one layup and floater to help the Jazz climb out of a double-digit hole.
“He’s been doing a great job of working on his game,” Leonard said of Ingles. “He’s a top-shooter from three I believe last year, and his percentage was very high.”
Jazz sharpshooter Joe Ingles turns 31 today. He has the respect of Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard. “He’s been doing a great job of working on his game,” Leonard said. pic.twitter.com/6VR709j5Is— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) October 2, 2018
RIGHT BACK AT IT: Jazz rookie Grayson Allen lit it up for a game-high 19 points in 22 minutes during his first pro game against Perth off five triples. Things were a little tougher being matched up against Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry and strong reserve Fred VanVleet defending him in the first half. However, in the fourth he found a groove against the Raptors’ second unit with a 3-point make and alley-oop jam to end with six points.
AMONG LEAGUE’S ELITE: Raptors coach Nick Nurse may be the new head coach in Toronto, but he’s very familiar with the Jazz roster. The former assistant coach is pushing for his own success, but certainly sees the Jazz in that elite discussion of upper-echelon rosters throughout the league. ESPN currently has the Jazz listed at No. 6 on the latest Power Rankings and the Raptors at No. 4 with the addition of Leonard, Danny Green and Greg Monroe.
“One hundred percent. They had a really, really good season last year,” Nurse said. “Really good group of players, they’ve got some depth and they’re really well coached, so yeah, I think they’re going to be there knocking on the door.”
FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE: Australian swingman Deng Adel was last in Salt Lake City for a pre-draft workout with the Jazzon June 17. He returned Tuesday in a Raptors uniform but didn’t hit the floor after receiving a DNP-coach’s decision. On the opposite end of warmups was a familiar face in Mitchell, his former Louisville teammate. They spent two seasons together for Cardinals coach Rick Pitino, where they reached the NCAA Tournament’s second round as sophomores in 2017. Adel signed a partially guaranteed contract with the Raptors ahead of the preseason and is fighting for a regular-season spot. Mitchell notices a theme among the Australian talent, now that he’s on a team with Ingles and Dante Exum, who also sat with right knee soreness.
“I think it might be an Australian thing, but you Australians don’t get tired,” Mitchell said, laughing. “My roommate, Deng Adel, who plays for the Raptors and (former Louisville big) Mangok Mathiang never got tired. Always full court and played hard with passion.”