Utah (25-14) at Toronto (19-21)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Toronto, ON
Temp: 41° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Fri Jan 19, 2007
  • TV: FSNO, RAPT
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A pair of teams that sit atop their respective divisions despite a disparity in records meet Friday when the Utah Jazz visit the Toronto Raptors.

The Raptors (19-21) have won four of their last five and come in following two big victories, an 18-point win over Philadelphia on Monday and a 101-85 victory over Sacramento on Wednesday.

Chris Bosh had 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists against the Kings, and the Raptors received a huge lift from their reserves, who scored a combined 50 points, including 22 by Morris Peterson.

It’s the defense, however, that has been most impressive. Toronto’s opponents are averaging just 86.2 points per game in the last five contests.

“They’re taking pride in trying to stop people,” coach Sam Mitchell said. “I feel like if you throw away maybe the first 10, 12, 14 games of the season, our defense is as good as anyone’s.”

Wednesday was the start of a season-high five-game homestand for Toronto, and Bosh said it was crucial that the Raptors got off to a good start.

“It was really important,” Bosh said. “I got a little bit nervous, I’m not going to lie. … You need to know you have a win. … We have a very good team coming in Friday.”

Following the Jazz (25-14), Toronto plays what should be three easier games against Charlotte (12-25), New Orleans (15-22) and Boston (12-25). The Raptors are tied with New Jersey for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Toronto might be catching the Jazz at the right time. Utah had lost five of six before snapping a four-game skid with a 100-99 win over Detroit on Wednesday.

Deron Williams scored a career-high 31 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 44 seconds left as Utah held off the Pistons. Williams, who has been inconsistent in his second season, is averaging 17.0 points and 8.7 assists per game.

“I never felt like I was off track, I just wasn’t getting the shots to fall,” said Williams, who had 10 assists Wednesday. “I knew I was playing well and doing everything I was supposed to do. Sometimes that just happens.”

Utah hopes Williams can build off Wednesday’s performance as it nears the end of its road trip. Following Friday’s game, the Jazz face Chicago on Saturday before returning to Salt Lake City to play nine of the next 11.

“We like the challenge,” said Mehmet Okur, who scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter against the Pistons. “We always play good against good teams.”

This is the second meeting this season between the Raptors and the Jazz, who won 101-96 in the first matchup on Nov. 20. The Raptors had six players score in double figures in that contest, but couldn’t overcome Carlos Boozer’ 35 points and a fourth quarter in which they were outscored 30-19.

Utah has won three straight and 14 of the last 21 meetings between these teams.

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Friday, Jan 19