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Gary Trent Jr.’s Big Night Not Enough as Raptors Fall to the Utah Jazz

If this last stretch of games wasn’t tough enough, the Toronto Raptors will now be without OG Anunoby indefinitely.

In the midst of a career season, the Raptors forward suffered a hip pointer injury during a workout and will miss a significant amount of time. Playing part of the season without Pascal Siakam and now being forced to play without Anunoby, the Raptors continue to struggle to find any sort of lineup continuity.

“It seems like we’ve had a minimum of three or four guys out for every game this year,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “…It’s a little frustrating. What do you do? I’m just more anxious to see us be able to build on some stuff. It seems like we had to take some steps back and reconfigure and then we take some forward.”

As the team looked to get back on track, they ran into a buzz saw in the Utah Jazz. Despite a valiant first half effort, the Raptors were outmatched in the second half and fell by a score of 119-103, dropping to 7-9 on the season.

As the season has gone on, the Raptors’ blueprint defense has gotten progressively worse, to a point where they allowed the Jazz to shoot 55-percent from the field and 41-percent from long range on the night. The Raptors currently rank 21st in the league in defensive rating, and although they are seventh in offensive rating, they are bottom-10 in the league in effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, three-point field goals made, and assists, meaning some short of regression may be coming sooner rather than later.

“They got a lot of buckets at the rim tonight,” said Nurse, following Thursday night’s game. “Obviously that was tough to handle. And they also just shot it really well from three. That’s a good shooting team, a really tough team to defend. But we just didn’t cover up enough at the rim or at least wrap them up and make them shoot free throws or things like that … we [didn’t execute some] coverages and they made us pay for them.”

On the positive side, the Raptors received a huge game from Gary Trent Jr.

The 22-year old guard signed a long-term contract extension with the team this past offseason and has been phenomenal on both sides of the court, taking a step forward offensively, while showing more defensive tenacity than he has at any point in his career and showing tangible improvements in his overall defensive game. This is the sort of positive development that the Raptors hope to see throughout the year as they navigate through what will continue to be an up-and-down year. On Thursday night, Trent led all scores with 31 points on 12-for-18 shooting, including five made three-pointers.

The Raptors will hope to get another big performance from Trent on Friday night as they hope to get back on track against the Sacramento Kings.

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