Matchup: Toronto Raptors vs. Utah Jazz
Records: Raptors (27-11); Jazz (18-19)
Where to Watch
Date: Tuesday, Jan. 1
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON
The Toronto Raptors ended 2018 with a win and they look to start 2019 with one when they host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.
MORE: Four takeaways from Toronto's latest win
The Jazz have gotten the season off to a slower start than expected, but they've had the league's hardest schedule per ESPN. With an easier schedule the rest of the way, FiveThirtyEight projects them to win 48 games and compete for homecourt advantage in the Western Conference.
Despite their disappointing start, the Jazz continue to be one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. They're holding opponents to only 105.0 points per 100 possessions so far this season, putting them behind only four teams in defensive rating.
That number drops to 102.0 when Rudy Gobert is on the court. Gobert isn't making quite the same impact on defence as he was last season, when he was named Defensive Player of the Year for the first time in his career, but he's still one of the best rim protectors in the NBA.
Not only is he blocking 2.1 shots per game, Gobert is holding opponents to 55.5 percent shooting within 6-feet of the basket. With his long arms, he'll make things difficult for a Raptors team that currently ranks in the top-10 this season in paint scoring.
MORE: Is Gobert the best rim protector in the NBA?
Donovan Mitchell is the player to watch for the Jazz on the other end of the court. While his efficiency is down compared to his rookie season, Mitchell is more than capable of scoring in bunches. He missed Utah's first matchup with Toronto this season with an injury, but Mitchell averaged 25.5 points in the two games the Raptors and Jazz played last season.
The Raptors won the first meeting by nine points and the Jazz won the second by four.
The Raptors will be without both Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry on Tuesday. Valanciunas has missed eight straight games after dislocating his left thumb against the Golden State Warriors and Lowry has missed seven of the last eight games, the last time he played being Toronto's 25-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 22.
For the Jazz, both Ricky Rubio and Jae Crowder are listed as probable.
The Raptors will likely need a strong showing from Serge Ibaka to beat the Jazz. His ability to space the floor as a centre - a fifth of his shot attempts have come from midrange this season and he's shooting 53.3 percent from that distance - will help pull Gobert out of the paint.
Kawhi Leonard has scored 20-plus points in 13 straight games, the longest streak of his NBA career.
If Leonard reaches that mark again on Tuesday, he'll go for 15 straight 20-plus point games when he makes his highly anticipated return to San Antonio on Thursday.
Last Time They Played
Date: Nov. 5
Score: Raptors 124, Jazz 111
Raptors: Kyle Lowry - 17 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, two steals
Jazz: Alec Burks - 22 points, three assists, one block