The Utah Jazz were without point guard Ricky Rubio on Saturday’s game against the New York Knicks, but it didn’t seem to faze them. The 2009 draftee from Spain averages 12.7 points per game–along with 6.3 vital assists–but the team still went to work against the Knicks and blew them out 129-97.
It was a sharp contrast to the team’s horrific performance against the 76ers, during which Rubio got taken out by Sixers center Joel Embiid.
The Jazz certainly didn’t look their best against the Sixers that night–they lost the game 114-97, though second-year guard Donovan Mitchell was able to put up 23 points and backup point guard Dante Exum was able to contribute 20. Exum’s breakout was certainly helpful–Rubio was only able to add 5 in his starting role–but the effort wasn’t nearly enough, and the Jazz were crushed under dominant performances by Joel Embiid and JJ Redick.
When Will Rubio Return?
The Jazz were able to bounce back, without Rubio, against the Knicks on Saturday. Rudy Gobert was dominant, scoring 25 points on a seemingly-endless onslaught of lobs from Exum that the Knicks just couldn’t figure out how to stop. The veteran and recently-transplanted Kyle Korver was a standout as well and scored 15 points on 5-8 three-point shooting.
With six players in double figures, the Jazz were able to easily come away with a win against the 9-28 Knicks. But the Raptors are a whole other beast. There won’t be infinite opportunities for easy lobs at the rim, and despite Exum’s stellar play recently there will be a noticeable gap at the point guard position until Rubio’s return.
He’s currently listed as day-to-day as he recovers from that brutal hit last week, but the Jazz will need all the help they can get if they want to take down the team with the best record in the league.
The Raptors Have the Best Record in the League
Having sat securely at the top of the Eastern Conference rankings until very recently (they were supplanted by the Milwaukee Bucks–who, though they have only won 25 games compared to Toronto’s 27, currently have a better winning percentage), the Toronto Raptors have been the team to beat since acquiring Kawhi Leonard in the offseason. Leonard has been unstoppable with the Raptors–a refreshing change after spending the better part of the last two seasons incognito–averaging 26.7 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.
In the Raptor’s previous game, a win against the Bulls, Kawhi put up 27 points and 9 rebounds in a dominant performance that we long-ago learned to expect.
The Raptors are beatable, though. They only beat the Bulls by six last night, and the Bulls are hardly a contender this season. The Orlando Magic took them down on Friday 116-87, and the Sixers beat them 126-101 a few days before. In fact, they’ve lost 6 of their last 12 games–a significant amount considering they currently have 11 losses on the season total.