By Jeffrey Baer
Hopes of a perfect season for the Utah Jazz were dashed by the visiting Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, who handed the Jazz their first loss of the season, 104-95.
?We had a very tough time guarding them,? said Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan. ?We need to realize how important defense is, not just try to outscore the other team. We couldn?t keep them from getting on top of the basket. They scored 58 points in the paint.?
The Jazz looked sluggish from the start, throwing careless passes and committing sloppy fouls. However, they were able to claw their way back into it behind the efforts of Keith McLeod, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the first quarter.
Despite taking a lead into the fourth quarter, Utah squandered a seven-point lead in the fourth and were shut down offensively. They only scored 16 points in the final quarter, shooting a dismal 41% from the field on the night.
Chris Bosh?s 20-point performance and timely scoring in the fourth quarter fueled the Raptors? assault. Bosh heated up after a one-handed hammer dunk in the second quarter. He continued scoring with the outside jumper and remained solid throughout the game.
Raja Bell provided a spark off the bench and lit it up early in the second quarter for the Jazz. He could not be contained offensively with the short-range jumper. As the defense collapsed on him, he was able to make assists. He also drained a pair of three-pointers and finished with a game-high 20 points for the Jazz.
Rafael Araujo, a Raptor rookie and BYU alum, got some playing time due to an injury of a teammate and center Loren Woods getting into foul trouble. Araujo played for a total of four minutes, pulled in one rebound and committed a foul.
Though the winning streak ended, Jazz guard Gordan Giricek remained optimistic.
?I think everyone gave a great effort,? he said. ?Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. We were 4-0, so I think everybody expected us to win. We expected it, but sometimes you have to lose.?
Up next for Utah is the defending NBA champion Detroit Pistons on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Concerning the match up, Andrei Kirilenko said, ?We have two days off before Detroit comes and we?ll try to recover with more intensity.?
Giricek also commented about the upcoming opponent.
?We have to play each game hard, whether the champions are coming or not,? he said.