TORONTO — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder summed up his team’s first-half performance with three words.
“We were awful,” he said following his team’s 130-110 loss at Toronto on Sunday.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine a worse half. The Jazz, for example, have actually never had as bad of one — at least not on the scoreboard.
Utah set two franchise records on Sunday and they were polar opposites.
The first: Utah went into the half facing the largest deficit in team history.
The second: The Jazz scored the most point ever in a quarter in third.
The problem: The second wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the first.
So what happened in the first half that saw the Jazz go into the break down 77-37?
Let’s get the excuses out of the way: The Jazz were playing their fourth road game in less than a week and likely feeling the effects of the long trip. Marc Gasol, who was averaging 5.8 points this season, apparently saw Mike Conley on the court and resorted back into his Memphis form and scored points in the first quarter.
And, um, it snowed in Toronto on Sunday?
There really wasn’t a good reason for the Jazz’s atrocious opening half. The Raptors went on separate runs of 30-5 and 22-2 in the first half. It was all bad.
“I think the important thing for us is to understand there were a lot of reasons but I think the urgency to make certain things important defensively,” Snyder said. ‘Whether that be an assignment or sprinting back — not running back, not jogging back — against a team like Toronto that runs the way they do that. Too many breakdowns and too many possessions where we lacked the urgency we needed, and then obviously, the offense end puts you in positions where sometimes it's the next to impossible to do that.”
The Jazz were loose with the ball, getting easily effected by Toronto’s aggressive defense that forced the offense out of sets and into turnovers. That resulted in a number of transition opportunities for the Raptors — who took full advantage as they used said runs of 30-5 and 22-2 to completely blow the game open.
“When you're playing against a team like we are tonight, you cannot have five minutes spans where you don't score, or you don't even get shot attempts up because you turn the ball over or the small things that lead to wins,” Mike Conley said. “We got to be better.”
Toronto coach Nick Nurse said it was the best half his team has played.
“Shots were going in, defense was tough each possession, just about every possession,” he said. “Those things feed each other.”
Considering how bad things were, it was pretty remarkable then that there was even a time in the second half that there was some wonder if the Jazz could complete the comeback.
With 2:42 left in the third, Joe Ingle buried a 3 that cut the Raptors lead to “just” 16. At that point, the Jazz had outscored Toronto 42-18 in the quarter — but things didn’t get much more interesting after that.
But that third quarter (where the Jazz scored 49 points — the most they’ve ever scored in a quarter in team history) made the loss that much more disappointing. It wasn’t that the Jazz couldn’t compete with the Raptors, they just didn’t.
"I think it was a lack of focus — which we shouldn't have any lack of focus coming into a place like this, against a team that we know is playing at a championship level,” Mike Conley said.
By the 6:30 mark in the fourth, Snyder had waved the white flag and emptied his bench, hoping to save some legs for Monday’s game in Philadelphia, where Utah will hope to salvage what’s left of the long road trip.
Pascal Siakam had 35 points to lead the Raptors and Fred VanVleet had 21 on 5-of-7 shooting from 3.
Mike Conley had 20 points, with him being the biggest catalyst of Utah’s third-quarter run, to lead the Jazz. Jeff Green had 19 points off the bench and Donovan Mitchell had 16 for the Jazz who dropped to 12-8 on the season with the loss.