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Instant analysis: Utah Jazz up defensive intensity in second half to rally past Toronto Raptors

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) fights Toronto Raptors as the Utah Jazz and the Toronto Raptors play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 1, 2021.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) fights Toronto Raptors as the Utah Jazz and the Toronto Raptors play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 1, 2021.
Annie Barker, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz overcame a 10-point deficit to the Toronto Raptors at Vivint Arena on Saturday night to rally for a 106-102 victory, moving back into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with a half-game lead over the idle Phoenix Suns.

High notes

  • Offensively, Rudy Gobert was not sharp on Saturday against Toronto. However, when Utah needed a big play to complete the come-from-behind victory, he came up huge with a tip-in bucket with 24.3 seconds left to put the Jazz ahead 105-100. Gobert fell hard to the floor after the tip-in — his second hard fall to the floor in the fourth quarter — but his commitment to fight through his own struggles and make key contributions was clutch down the stretch.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic’s assertiveness in the first and third quarters was key in helping the sluggish Jazz keep the game close on a night when defensively it struggled dealing with Fred VanVleet and the Raptors. Bogdanovic scored 17 of his season-high 34 points in the first quarter and then 10 more in the third quarter. He was largely held in check in the fourth, but he did have one key 3-pointer in the quarter that pushed the lead to 101-96.
  • The first quarter wasn’t a particularly good one for the Jazz as they allowed 33 points to visiting Toronto, but their final offensive possession was a thing of beauty. Jordan Clarkson maintained his dribble the entire possession, eventually bursting past Yuta Watanabe and then throwing down a one-handed hammer dunk on Freddie Gillespie, hanging on the rim briefly for extra effect as his Jazz teammates on the bench jumped out of their seats.
  • Defensively, the Jazz made huge strides after halftime to fight back into the game. After allowing 62 points to Toronto in the first half, Utah buckled down and limited the visitors to 40 points in the second half and just 13 in the fourth quarter.
  • Trent Forrest played 15 minutes and provided a solid spark off the bench with his defense and his ability to get the Jazz into the offense at times. He even managed to make a 3-pointer, the biggest part of his game he needs to develop in the future if he hopes to be a rotation player on a full-strength squad.

“He‘s big time for us. Whenever he stepped on the court we got something from him,” said Bogdanovic.

Low notes

  • The Jazz committed an eye-popping 21 turnovers against the Raptors, which led to 27 points. They were still able to overcome all the miscues for the victory, but not having the ball handling of Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell on the floor made a big difference in the offensive execution.

“They’re so quick and athletic and apply so much pressure I thought Joe (Ingles) and JC (Jordan Clarkson) did about as good a job as you could handling that, and obviously Trent gave us huge minutes,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder.

  • Utah’s defense allowed 62 points at the half, which is usually difficult to overcome. Two of those points were the result of a simple lack of defensive awareness at the end of the first quarter as the Jazz were caught up in the excitement from Clarkson’s highlight-reel dunk. After the dunk with 1.4 seconds left, the Jazz allowed DeAndre’ Bembry to get behind everyone as he caught the inbounds pass, and in scramble mode, Gobert fouled him on a 3-point attempt. Bembry made 2 of 3 free throws, but they were two points there was no reason to concede.

“There’s a moment there were you can’t celebrate. They came back the other way,” said Snyder.

  • Gobert was largely a nonfactor on the offensive side of the ball Saturday. He still finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds, but he was stripped of the ball on multiple occasions in the paint, often bringing the ball down low going up for a basket. Gobert finished with four turnovers. The Raptors also did an outstanding job defensively making sure he couldn’t roll to the basket for easy buckets.

Flat notes

  • Over the Jazz’s previous two games — the blowout win against the Kings and road loss at Phoenix — Matt Thomas has seen increased minutes during fourth-quarter garbage time, which has allowed him to find his shooting rhythm as of late. On Saturday, Snyder rewarded Thomas with some second-quarter minutes in the rotation, but the Jazz guard didn’t really capitalize, scoring just three points in five minutes on three free throws after getting fouled on a corner 3. It was Thomas’ first game playing against his former team, which traded him to Utah on March 26.