Reeling Raptors face sizzling Jazz
A porous defence usually means bad news for a struggling team when it faces the hottest club in the NBA.
But that's the challenge before the Toronto Raptors as they host the Utah Jazz Sunday afternoon (CBC, 12:30 p.m. ET) at the Air Canada Centre.
The Raptors (23-40) have little to offer their fans in terms of hope. While they remain mathematically in the playoff race, Toronto sits in second-last place in the Eastern Conference and is running out of time.
Toronto, which has lost four straight contests, simply doesn't take enough care of its own end to warrant any confidence from even the most ardent of supporters.
The Raptors are coming off a 108-102 loss at home to the Miami Heat on Friday night, a game that saw them allow 100 points for the seventh consecutive time.
Trailing by 15 in the fourth quarter, Toronto mounted a rally but came no closer than six with more than a minute to play.
"We went down 15, and when you dig yourself that big a hole against a good team, it's tough," guard Anthony Parker told the team's official website. "To our credit, we did scrap and come back and get back into it."
The Raptors did receive a solid effort from newly acquired big man Pops Mensah-Bonsu. The six-foot-10 forward-centre was signed on Friday for the remainder of the season after his 10-day contract expired with the San Antonio Spurs.
Mensah-Bonsu scored four points and had a game-high 10 rebounds in his first game as a Raptor.
"I just thought we needed the energy," Raptors coach Jay Triano said. "He is what we have been looking for. He is still trying to learn [the system], but he had 10 rebounds and his hands on four or five others that he might have been able to get."
Things are considerably different for the Jazz (39-23), who are fighting for the last playoff spot in the West and are tied with Portland and Dallas.
A win in Toronto would give Utah its 11th straight win, a streak that would equal the team's longest run in 10 seasons.
The Jazz are currently a half-game out of top spot in the Northwest Division behind the Denver Nuggets.
However, Utah took a big step forward on Friday with a 97-91 win over Denver. The Jazz used 17-point run in the second half to erase an earlier 19-point deficit.
"The first half and the second half, there was a great deal of difference in the way we played," coach Jerry Sloan said. "The second half, we came out and acted like we wanted to play. The first half, they just dominated — just kicked us all over the floor."
Although eight of those 10 consecutive victories have come at home, Utah — 11-17 on the road this season — has won three of its last four away from Salt Lake City.
With files from the Associated Press