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Raptors, Jazz meet for rematch under new circumstances

Feb 6, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton (2) and head coach Will Hardy (right) speak during a break in action against the Dallas Mavericks at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Amid significant change, each team will have a different look from the last time they met when the Utah Jazz visit the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.

The Jazz, who defeated the Raptors 131-128 on Feb.1 at Salt Lake City, were involved in a three-team trade before their 143-118 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

In an eight-player deal involving the Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz traded Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and three second-round picks for Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones and a Lakers 2027 top-four protected first-round pick.

After the Raptors defeated the visiting Spurs 112-98 on Wednesday, they reacquired center Jakob Poeltl from San Antonio in exchange for Khem Birch, a protected 2024 first-round draft pick and two future second-round draft picks.

The trade by the Jazz leaves Jordan Clarkson as the team’s longest-tenured player. Conley was his backcourt mate in the starting lineup this season.

“It’s definitely tough losing a guy like Mike — that leader, great point guard,” Clarkson said. “The guy that makes everybody’s life easier on the court, and his energy off the court and what he brings to the team, a guy who was never down, I never thought he had a bad day, a guy who just took everybody for who they were. It’s a big loss.”

The trade means Collin Sexton will have a chance to establish himself as the Jazz’s starting point guard.

“No. 1 is taking care of his body,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “It seems like because of where we are in the season, we forget that Collin missed a year after having a knee surgery, and our No. 1 focus with Collin signing the extension is his health.

“And when he’s on the court playing, it’s about the balancing act of attacking to score and attacking to create shots for his teammates. And that’s what he’s going to continue to have to work on balancing.”

Sexton had 22 points, five assists and five rebounds in 31:16 in playing time on Wednesday.

“He’s fully capable from a physical standpoint of having a great impact defensively,” Hardy said. “He can get really low, he’s very explosive, super strong. He can get through screens and it’s going to just be, every day continuing to work on that technique — and the mindset of you can impact the game in a lot of other ways besides just scoring.”

The Raptors sent Poeltl to the Spurs in 2018 as part of the deal to acquire Kawhi Leonard. He is expected to provide the rim protection the Raptors need.

Poeltl had 12 points, seven rebounds and two steals for the Spurs in 28 minutes on Wednesday.

“We loved him when he was here,” Nurse said. “Just really tough, smart, hard-working. He does a lot (in) the game. He’s a screener, a rebounder, a rim protector, pretty smart on D, not necessarily a shot-blocker but a rim-protector guy. And his passing has really improved. That’s pretty good on the list of big guy things to do.”

“If you can rebound, protect the rim and pass the ball, set a few screens, he can handle it and get it to the rim and finish a little bit, too. Yep, we really liked him when he was here.”

–Field Level Media