Depleted Utah Jazz offer signs of hope in loss to Toronto Raptors

The Utah Jazz were always going to lose last night’s contest to the Toronto Raptors. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the group that was available last night more closely resembled the Salt Lake City Stars. It was no surprise that a healthy Raptors group came away with a 122-108 victory.

If there was anything captivating about last night’s contest, it was the way the team lost. This version of the Utah Jazz fought for their lives. In the first half, it looked extremely likely that they’d win that fight.

Utah Jazz dominate first half, falter in second

It was hard to believe what was transpiring in the first half of this ball game. The Jazz led by as much as 26-11 midway through the first quarter. They came into the second half with a 62-49 advantage.

The Jazz managed to gain that advantage by executing. This ragtag group didn’t skip a beat in the first half. It was a credit to Quin Snyder’s offensive principles, but make no mistake: it was also a credit to the talent on the back half of this roster. Unfortunately, their inexperience began to outweigh that talent as the game continued.

Utah Jazz guards struggle to hold onto ball

It was particularly evident from the play of Utah’s guards. The Jazz committed 21 turnovers to the Raptors’ 7. A staggering 15 of those turnovers came between Jared Butler (8) and Trent Forrest (7).

It’s hard to fault either for their performance. Butler was aggressive in driving and dishing throughout this contest, seemingly trying to replicate Donovan Mitchell’s production. That’s a tall order for a rookie as inexperienced as Butler.

Meanwhile, Forrest played the role of makeshift Joe Ingles. He was selective in his attempts to create offense. He handed out 8 assists, some of which were fairly impressive.

Not impressive enough to mitigate his 7 turnovers, unfortunately.

The Raptors force the second most turnovers in the NBA at 16.3 per game. They roster a platoon of long, opportunistic forwards. This game was always going to be a challenge for these two inexperienced Jazz guards.

Utah Jazz prospects make use of opportunity

Outside of Butler and Forrest, two young Jazzmen made use of their newfound spotlight. Eric Paschall flashed more shot creation ability than Jazz fans have seen from him throughout 2021-22 to date. With the team’s usual players, he typically operates as a spot up shooter. Last night, he was the team’s defacto first option. He responded with 29 points on 10/21 shooting from the field.

Paschall has a resume in the NBA. He was an offensive cog during some down years for the Golden State Warriors. Elijah Hughes, on the other hand, has done very little during his brief time in the National Basketball Association.

Last night’s performance has to quality as his greatest accomplishment so far.

Hughes finished this game with 26 points on 9/15 shooting from the field and 7/12 shooting from three point range. He also contributed 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. He didn’t just look the part of a rotation player. He performed like a genuine star.

Opportunity reigns supreme in the National Basketball Association. The Jazz may have been forced to give Hughes one last night, but nobody could deny that he made the most of it.

Utah Jazz fans may have been given some reason for longterm optimism last night, but in the short term, there may be cause for concern. They’ll likely field a similar group in tonight’s contest with the Indiana Pacers.