TORONTO – The referee’s whistle took Fred VanVleet and his Toronto Raptors out of their defensive rhythm and then out of the game.
Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler had 23 points apiece as the short-handed Utah Jazz rallied past Toronto 122-116 on Friday. Utah scored 39 of its points in the fourth quarter, including 11 on 13 free-throw attempts.
“I thought we played three great quarters of basketball,” said VanVleet, who finished with 17 points and five personal fouls. “I think it was just hard to get back on our toes, we were kind of on our heels, the whole quarter.
“Just the way the whistle was going, certainly took me out of it early on.”
Newly minted all-star Pascal Siakam scored 35 to lead the Raptors (26-31), who saw their three-game win streak snapped. Siakam, who also had six rebounds and four assists, was named to the NBA all-star player pool as an injury replacement earlier Friday.
Despite having the hot hand, Siakam had only one shot attempt in the final five minutes of play, a 22-foot three-pointer that he missed with 34 seconds left to play.
“He was the only one that was playing well. He probably should have had the ball more,” said VanVleet. “I’ll have to look and see each possession. I don’t really remember how it went down the stretch.
“I wouldn’t have been mad if he had it the whole rest of the way but it didn’t go that way.”
Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops, B.C., almost had a triple-double with 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists as the Jazz (28-29) ended a three-game skid.
Utah was without guard Russell Westbrook, forward Juan Toscano-Anderson and centre Damian Jones. They were not yet with the team after being traded to the Jazz in a three-team deal Thursday.
Toronto centre Jakob Poeltl got a rousing ovation from the 19,800 in attendance at Scotiabank Arena when he entered the game with 5:06 left in the first.
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Poeltl was traded to Toronto from San Antonio ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 16:41 of work.
“I thought he did some good things, good screen and rolls, got to the free-throw line,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “I thought he played decent for just getting here.”
Siakam sank a jumper with 0.3 seconds left in the half to give Toronto a 61-58 lead. His 23 points after two quarters led all scorers.
He made his season-high fifth three-pointer of the night with 6:05 to play in the third. His previous high was four in a 119-106 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 26.
VanVleet made two free throws with 1.7 seconds left in the third to extend the Raptors’ lead to 96-83, but then the refs’ whistles came out.
Kessler dunked an alley-oop pass from Talen Horton-Tucker to pull Utah within eight with 4:12 left to play. After Markkanen grabbed a defensive rebound, Horton-Tucker scored a layup to cut Toronto’s lead to six.
Olynyk followed that with a three-pointer and Precious Achiuwa turned it over on a travel, allowing Collin Sexton’s layup to bring the Jazz to within a point. Sexton was fouled on his drive to the net and the ensuing free throw tied the game 112-112.
“I take 100 per cent of the blame on that,” said Achiuwa on Toronto’s late collapse. “I’ve got to do a better job anchoring the defence back there, getting guys where they need to be.
“I’ve just got to be better.”
Scottie Barnes sank two free throws to reassert the Raptors’ lead, but Markkanen drained a floater and hit a free throw to make it 115-114 Utah.
Sexton’s layup extended that lead to three before Barnes drove to the net with 1:14 left to play to keep Toronto within a point. A Kessler layup made it 119-116 and Utah regained control when the ball went out of bounds on a Raptors possession.
Sexton was fouled as he drove to the net with 11.3 seconds left in the game. He made one of two free throws to make it a four-point game.
After the ball was inbounded to him, Horton-Tucker ran deep into the defensive end of the court and was fouled. He made both of his free throws for the final score of the game.
SIAKAM ALL-STAR NOD — Siakam, Minnesota guard Anthony Edwards and Sacramento guard De’Aaron Fox were named by NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s office to the all-star player pool. They replace Golden State’s Stephen Curry, New Orleans’ Zion Williamson and Phoenix’s Kevin Durant — all of whom are injured and will be unable to play in the Feb. 19 game in Salt Lake City.
UP NEXT — Toronto hosts the Detroit Pistons and former head coach Dwane Casey on Sunday afternoon.
Utah travels to New York to play the Knicks on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2023.
© 2023 The Canadian Press
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