Raptors up by 40 at halftime, go on to rout Jazz 130-110

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TORONTO — Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors hardly anticipated an easy night against the Utah Jazz.

“I don’t think any of us expected to be up 40 against that team,” VanVleet said.

Pascal Siakam scored 35 points, VanVleet had 21 points and 11 assists, and the Raptors used a record-setting first half to rout the Jazz 130-110 Sunday.

Toronto led 77-37 at the intermission, the biggest halftime lead in franchise history, the biggest in the NBA this season, and tied for the eighth largest in league history. It also marked the biggest halftime deficit in Jazz history.

“We were awful,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said.

Siakam (26 points) and Gasol (11) combined for as many first-half points as the entire Jazz roster, helping Toronto win its franchise-record ninth straight home game to open the season.

The Jazz rallied in the second half but still suffered their biggest defeat of the season. Utah lost by 19 at Indiana last Wednesday.

“Obviously, our focus to begin the game has to be better,” Snyder said.

Siakam shot 4 for 22 and scored a season-low 10 points in Friday’s win at Orlando but bounced back against by making eight of his first 10 field goal attempts. He shot 14 for 22 overall, matching his career high with five 3-pointers. He also had five against New York last Wednesday.

“He’s got a lot of pride in his game,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “When he has an off game, I just think he comes out mentally ready to roll. You could just see him with aggressiveness and confidence.”

Serge Ibaka returned after missing 10 games because of a sprained right ankle and scored 13 points in 21 minutes as Toronto won its seventh straight overall and improved to 5-2 against Western Conference opponents.

Mike Conley scored 20 points and Rudy Gobert had 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Jazz lost for the third time in four games on their five-game trip, which ends at Philadelphia on Monday night.

“We didn’t match their energy at all,” Conley said. “We knew it was going to be physical, we didn’t handle the ball well. We didn’t get back on defense, we didn’t do little things that good teams do.”

Utah’s Jeff Green scored a season-high 19 points and Donovan Mitchell added 16.

Utah took an early lead before Siakam scored 10 points and Gasol added eight during a 23-2 run, giving Toronto a 28-11 lead with 3:24 left in the opening quarter.

Mitchell stopped the Raptors surge with a 3, but Siakam scored 19 points in the first as Toronto led 37-20 after one.

After making just 5 of 27 field goals in the second quarter, the Jazz connected on 16 of their first 19 attempts in the third. Conley scored 13 points in the third and Mitchell had 11 as the Jazz outscored the Raptors 49-30 to cut the gap to 107-86.

Former Celtic Guerschon Yabusele fined for not looking at flag during Chinese national anthem

Guerschon Yabusele
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Guerschon Yabusele washed out with the Celtics.

So, now the former first-rounder is playing in China – and running into trouble.

The Chinese Basketball Association fined him for not looking at the flag during the national anthem:

Though Yabusele is French, this comes amid heightened tension between the NBA and China. Most Americans will probably find it ridiculous that looking at the flag during the national anthem is required in authoritarian China.

Meanwhile, let’s ostracize anyone who dares not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.

Portland reportedly applies for disabled player exception after Rodney Hood injury

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Rodney Hood‘s season coming to an end because of a ruptured Achilles was a real blow to Portland — he had become a critical part of their rotation. That has led to a lot of speculation about already shorthanded Portland jumping into the trade market soon looking for someone to absorb those minutes, as well as hitting the buyout market hard next February.

Portland is now looking for a little more money to spend to bring someone in, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The “disabled player exemption” allows a team over some space to go after a replacement for a player lost due to injury. This is a fairly standard process and likely will be approved. Portland can use that money on a free agent (Iman Shumpert is available again) or someone bought out by another team.

Portland is 10-16 on the season, set back in part due to injuries to the front line. The Blazers knew Jusuf Nurkic would miss most of the season, and he was vital to them, but they were counting on Zach Collins to step up and absorb those minutes. Then he needed shoulder surgery. Portland eventually turned to Carmelo Anthony to help along the frontline, and he has performed well enough for them to guarantee his contract for the season.

Portland is going to be active, both looking at free agents and on the trade market. Just don’t expect a Kevin Love deal (he may want it but his contract makes that nearly impossible).

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
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The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

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Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.