Toronto Raptors

Utah Jazz hold on to defeat Toronto Raptors in nail-biting fashion

The Toronto Raptors had plenty of chances late in the fourth quarter to alter the outcome of this one, but the Utah Jazz held on to take the win.

Behind a huge 34-point game from Bojan Bogdanovic and a strong showing from the Utah bench, the Jazz were able to defeat the Raptors despite a spirited 30 points, eight assists and seven rebounds from Fred VanVleet.

If you missed any of the action, we have you covered with some thoughts below.

1. Fred VanVleet bounces back

VanVleet spoke on how his body reacted poorly to playing in both games of the Raptors' back-to-back earlier this week and as a result, the star guard sat out of the team's last contest against the Denver Nuggets.

Combining for a total of 19 points while shooting 7-for-27 from the field and 4-for-17 from 3-point land over his last two games, VanVleet was in need of a major bounce back performance.

He did just that in this contest against the Jazz, erupting for 30 points to go with eight assists and seven rebounds.

VanVleet brought the energy from the get-go in this one, scoring 21 points in the first half. He was firing on all cylinders, proving a few days rest is all his hip needs to perform at his best. Stepping up in Kyle Lowry's absence, VanVleet delivered when his team needed him most, albeit in a losing effort.

2. Bojan Bogdanovic's big night

On a night where the Jazz were without two key offensive pieces in Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr., they needed someone else to step up and score.

That someone was Bogdanovic, who had the hot hand as soon as he stepped on the floor in this contest. He exploded for 17 points in the first quarter alone, shooting 7-for-10 from the field and 3-for-4 from 3.

Entering halftime with 21 points, you would have thought the Raptors would devise a gameplan to slow down the Croatian scorer. It was quickly evident that would not be the case as Bogdanovic added another 10 points in the third quarter with two more 3-pointers.

He would only score three points in the fourth quarter, but it was a timely 3-ball that helped put the Raptors up against it to try and complete a comeback.

Finishing with a season-high 34 points while shooting 12-for-22 from the field and 6-for-11 from 3-point range, it was Bogdanovic's best game of the year.

3. Khem Birch's continued growth

What a signing Birch has been.

Just one game removed from dropping a career-high 20 points against the Nuggets, where he also put forth nine boards, four assists, two steals and a block, Birch delivered again in this one.

The significance of these two major performances? One came against MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic, the other against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert.

Tonight, Birch was a jack-of-all-trades for Toronto, delivering 17 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and one steal.

His six assists marked a new career-high, landing his career-best marks in scoring and assists in back-to-back games.

4. Jordan Clarkson dances before a poster dunk

The Sixth Man of the Year favourite put forth the best highlight of this game, dancing on Yuta Watanabe before flushing a dunk on Freddie Gillespie.

Just nasty. It's worth another look.

Clarkson added another solid performance toward his award-worthy campaign, going for 15 points off the bench.

5. Bench scoring makes the difference

And speaking of bench scoring... Clarkson single-handedly outscored all of Toronto's second unit, 15-13.

The Jazz got 32 points from their bench, while the Raptors bench only provided 13 points. According to TSN's Josh Lewenberg, Toronto's second unit has been outscored by 62 points (118-56) over the last three games.

It is safe to say the bench is feeling the absence of players like Chris Boucher and Gary Trent Jr.

6. Raptors fail to take advantage of a favourable night around the NBA

The Raptors are chasing the coattails of the No. 10-seeded Washington Wizards while also jockeying with the Chicago Bulls in a tie for 11th place.

In Toronto's favour, the Wizards fell in a down-to-the-wire loss to the Dallas Mavericks, while the Bulls were defeated by the Atlanta Hawks. The combination of those two results could not have worked better for the Raptors' playoff hopes, but Toronto couldn't come away with a win to capitalize.

With the loss, the Raptors remain 3.0 games back from the Wizards for the final Play-In spot with just eight games remaining.

7. What's next?

The Raptors won't have much time to rest, taking on the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday on the second night of a back-to-back. The Jazz will have one day off before hosting the Spurs on Monday.

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