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Analysis: Missing 8 players, Jazz lose but put up strong fight against Raptors

Eric Paschall and Elijah Hughes combined for 55 points and forced the Raptors to mount a second-half comeback

Utah Jazz forward Eric Paschall (0) shoots while surrounded by Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23), center Khem Birch (24) and forward OG Anunoby
Utah Jazz forward Eric Paschall (0) shoots while surrounded by Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23), center Khem Birch (24) and forward OG Anunoby during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
The Canadian Press via AP

TORONTO — The Utah Jazz lost to the Toronto Raptors 122-108 on Friday night. But, the Jazz were playing without Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gay, and the Jazz’s deep bench, along with newly acquired Danuel House, put on quite a show.

High notes

  • I did not expect for this game to be my favorite of the season, but it immediately shot up the ranks just as quickly as the Jazz shot out to an early lead (40-25 at the end of the first quarter). Sure the Jazz lost, but they had absolutely no business even being in this game. They were playing without any of their normal starting five, in total missing eight of their main rotation players and they had a guy playing in his first game with the team, having been with the group for less than 48 hours. It was a squad of players who mostly only play in garbage time minutes, and they had the Raptors scared. Fred VanVleet changed his shoes at the end of the first quarter!
  • Hassan Whiteside and Trent Forrest were the only regular guys that played on Friday. It would have been completely understandable if the Jazz’s offense looked insane and the defense completely imploded. But it didn’t. The Jazz were spaced and trying to push the ball, and they were moving things around really well. Of course it wasn’t perfect, but there were so many good things that it’s hard to be mad about it.
  • Eric Paschall, in all of his new dad strength glory, scored 17 of his 29 points in the first quarter alone. He brushed off the idea that he was powered by his new source of joy, and actually noted how tired he’s been with the craziness of leaving the team and being in the hospital for five days waiting for his “stubborn” child to arrive. Well, Paschall didn’t look tired at all. He looked like he was out to prove that even though he’s not in the Jazz’s regular rotation anymore (since the return of Rudy Gay), he deserves to be in a rotation and is perfectly capable.
  • House played in his first game with the Jazz, and for a guy that’s signed to a 10-day hardship deal, he was so unselfish and aware of where he needed to be. He’s playing with a dislocated finger that he’s been dealing with since before he joined the Jazz, but that didn’t stop him from diving on the floor or going into the stands for loose balls or defending guys with force. Just really impressive stuff.
  • Elijah Hughes scored a career-high 26 points and made seven 3-pointers. Though he was starting for the first time in his career and he was tasked with so much more responsibility, he never seemed like he was nervous at all. He looked calm and collected and showed off a range of skills, including his ability to create for his teammates.
  • Jared Butler also started in this game and finished with 17 points. It’s still clear that Butler has a ton of potential and could really develop into a good piece. He is crafty and smart and is a great playmaker.
  • Malik Fitts hit a shot from beyond half court to close out the first quarter and that’s just good fun. Also, Fitts is a sneaky good defender.

Low notes

  • The Raptors eventually figured out the Jazz and took over in the second half, but that wasn’t purely because the Raptors were playing great. The Jazz made a lot of mistakes. Butler and Forrest combined for 15 of the Jazz’s 21 turnovers, the Jazz stopped getting in front of guys in transition and they looked like they really did get tired. It’s not like that’s horrible. I mean, these are guys who aren’t used to having the ball in their hands for this long against veteran NBA defenders, so there are going to be growing pains and they are deservedly tired. Still, that was the low point.

Flat Notes

  • This was by far Whiteside’s worst game in a Jazz uniform. He looked disinterested on the defensive end early on and things didn’t get better. He looked like he was just going through the motions. There’s not really a great excuse for this. The Jazz would not have played Whiteside if he was still feeling the effects of his recent concussion. If he was recovered but still not feeling great he would have had to fight hard to play in this game and why would he fight to play in a game where he wasn’t going to try. If he was feeling fine and just not playing well, that’s just an indictment of his attitude. The Jazz would have had a lot more of a chance to win this game if he would have put in more effort.
  • The Raptors letting the Jazz’s deep bench squad put up 40 points in the first quarter and push them around through most of the first half is not a good look. They should be disappointed in how they played.