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'He stole my shooting powers': Rudy Gay shines in debut as Jazz top Raptors



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY β€” Joe Ingles gave a knowing grin before he answered the question.

"He's all right, isn't he?" Ingles said when asked about Rudy Gay.

The Utah Jazz's prized offseason acquisition made his season debut Thursday, and, well, he is pretty all right; that's actually putting it lightly.

Gay scored 20 points in 15 minutes, went 7 of 8 from the field and knocked down five 3-pointers in Utah's 119-103 win over the Toronto Raptors at Vivint Arena.

Talk about a debut.

"He played within himself, made the game easy because of the decisions that he made," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "He made shots, but that's a byproduct of making the right play β€” that's what we emphasize with our whole group. Making shots always stands out but there's other things that he did that helped our team. That's what stood out to me."

Those other things included using his length to disrupt the Raptors on defense, his understanding of where to be on the court and his willingness to shoot. Against a shorthanded Toronto team that likes to trap at the point of attack, there were a lot of shots to be had, and Gay happily took them.

"I think he stole my shooting powers," said Ingles, who flirted with a triple-double with 10 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. "That kind of pisses me off."

Ingles and Gay have been shooting partners since the Jazz convened for training camp back in September. After every practice or shootaround, the two make their way around the perimeter firing up shot after shot. Did all those shooting sessions next to Ingles, statistically one of the best shooters in league history, rub off?

Gay said to tap the brakes on that narrative.

"Joe's a good shooter, but I'm no slouch, man," Gay said. "I am closing in on 20,000 points β€” there's a lot of 3's in there. I'm usually humble but you know."

Gay said what he was most proud about in his debut wasn't his shooting but the fact that he kept the ball moving. He wanted to make life easier for Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and the rest of his teammates.

"Rudy was great," said the other Rudy (Gobert had 14 points and 11 rebounds). "He really gave us a spark on offense. What I really liked is he's really looking for his teammates, and he's shooting the ball when he's open."

Maybe it was coincidence, but in Gay's first game, the Jazz had their best ball-movement game of the season. The ball swung from side to side continuously and the Jazz found open man after open man.

"That's a big thing with this team," Gay said. "I think when we do that, we're hard to beat."

With the Raptors' trap at the point of attack, it almost forced Utah to have to get the ball moving in order to beat the defensive stand. It was Mike Conley's ability to beat the trap and quickly get the offense flowing. It's why Snyder said Conley "dominated" the game despite just taking four shots. Conley finished with 5 points and seven assists but was a team-high plus-33 on the night.

"Mike, in my mind, the way that he played, to be that unselfish and facilitate, I don't pay a lot of attention to plus-minus because sometimes it's deceiving, but 33 jumps out,'' Snyder said.

It jumps out and so does Gay's 20 points and near-perfect shooting in a debut, especially after the offseason Gay had.

"35 years old, foot surgery, basically teaching myself how to walk again. Again, after tearing my Achilles before," Gay said. "It's not easy. Takes a lot of dedication. You gotta be a little crazy without injuries to play in this league this long, be able to stay here and be able to chase around these 19 year olds and be able to play with different coaches and be around different locker rooms. You got to be a little different. I'm a little different."

With Gay in the lineup, the Jazz are also a little different.

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