Now that the college bowl season is all but wrapped up, I am going to turn my attention to the hardwood and really focus on what I've done a few times already this season which is to give you the best possible insight and research regarding the Utah Jazz.
The last time I brought up the Jazz was about a month ago when they were playing well and in the midst of bouncing back from a rocky and injury-filled opening month of the regular season. The Jazz are currently sitting in fifth spot in the Western Conference with a record of 22-14. They are one game back of the fourth-place Los Angeles Clippers for fourth but just one game up on both Oklahoma City and Memphis. They have won four of their last five games after losing three straight from Dec. 20-23.
Tonight's game is the third game of a five-game road trip that will have them visit Minnesota and Memphis after tonight before returning home to face the reigning NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
As a reminder, I will release picks throughout the season using Doc's Sports Unit Betting System and will keep track of the results, regularly checking in with observations about what we can learn or have learned up to date.
Utah Jazz @ Toronto Raptors Betting Storylines
The Jazz come into tonight's game after splitting a pair of games on back-to-back nights against Brooklyn and Boston. In the latter, they lost 115-104 against a Celtics squad that benefitted from three days of rest. The Jazz got out to an early lead but ultimately faced the wrath of fatigue down the stretch, which allowed the Celtics to pull away. Gordon Hayward paced the team like he usually does with 23 points and got some help from the likes of Joe Johnson (17 points) and Boris Diaw (15). The Jazz's undoing was their usually stingy defense. They allowed the Celtics to shoot 55 percent from the field, including 55 percent (17-of-31) from three-point land. They will need to find a solution on the defensive side of things in a hurry if they have any hope at beating one of the higher-scoring teams in the league - the Toronto Raptors.
Despite giving up 115 points the last time out, the Jazz are still playing solid ball on the defensive end of the court, holding opponents to 95.1 points per game, which is tops in The Association. However, they are four points (93.1) better at home on the defensive end of things than they are on the road (97.4). The Jazz are also relatively healthy at this point in the season, only missing George Hill (concussion, suffered during Saturday's game vs Phoenix) and Dante Exum (knee injury - travelling with the team and expected to play on Saturday).
The last meeting between these two teams was just two weeks ago in Utah, where the Raptors prevailed with a 104-98 win. The Raptors shot 53 percent from the field and limited the Jazz to just 44 percent shooting and 37 percent from beyond the arc. The Raps got a combined 60 points from their one-two punch in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. However, since that game, the Raptors are just 2-3 with losses coming against Golden State, Phoenix and San Antonio.
This will be the Raptors first home game after a six-game road trip, which saw them go 3-3 overall. They will leave for Chicago immediately after the game for a date with the Bulls before coming home to enjoy a four-game homestand.
Utah Jazz @ Toronto Raptors Betting Odds and Betting Trends
Both teams will be looking to get back to their winning ways and avoid losing back-to-back games. The Jazz are tabbed as 5.5-point underdogs in this matchup with the total sitting at 204.
The Jazz are just 2-6 ATS in their last eight games and 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games on Thursday. The "under" is 5-1 in the last six games after an ATS loss and 4-1 in the last five games overall.
The Raptors are 5-1 ATS in their last six contests following a straight up loss and 7-3-1 in their last 11 home games. The Raps tend to trend to the "under" on Thursdays as it has hit in seven of the last eight Thursday games.
Utah Jazz @ Toronto Raptors Predictions and Picks
If I was a betting man, which I am, I would bet top-dollar that Dwane Casey was not pleased with his team's effort in their latest 28-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs. He is already on record of saying that his team needs to start faster and break the bad habits that plagued the Raptors during their six-game road trip.
The Raptors are a solid team built to handle the teams at or below their level. They are a combined 0-6 against the top teams in the league (Cleveland 0-3, Golden State 0-2 and San Antonio (0-1). Luckily for Raptors' fans, the Jazz don't fall into the category above and can be beaten by playing to the level the Raps know they can play.
Utah will be playing for the third time in four nights when this game gets underway and I expect fatigue to play a part as the game progresses into the third and fourth quarter. The Raptors average 110 points per game overall and an even better 113 points per game at home, which means the Jazz will need to be at there very best defensively - something I don't see them doing.
An angle I usually love to play is to play against a team in their first home game after a lengthy road trip. While the Raptors definitely qualify as a play-against team, I don't think the opponent is right and I expect the Raptors to benefit from some home cooked meals and the crowd support.
Let's get a win tonight with a 5-unit play on the Raptors -5.5, (-110).
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