Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder calls a play during the first half of an NBA basketball game against Toronto Raptors, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/George Frey)
SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gay showed he still knows how to make a major impact on a game even while playing limited minutes.
Gay hit five 3-pointers and scored 20 points in his season debut to help the Utah Jazz beat the Toronto Raptors 119-103 on Thursday night.
Gay also had five rebounds while playing just 18 minutes. He missed Utah’s first 14 games while recovering from offseason surgery on his right heel.
Returning from a surgery that forced Gay to teach himself how to walk again for a second time in his NBA career would have been too daunting for most players in their mid-30s. Gay embraced the challenge of coming back.
“It’s not easy. It takes a lot of dedication,” Gay said. “You got to be a little different and I’m a little different.
His offense wasn’t the only thing that lifted the Jazz to their second straight win. Gay made good defensive plays and provided enough spacing and passing to help the offense operate at high efficiency.
“He played within himself,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Made the game easy because of the decisions that he made. He made shots, but that’s a byproduct of making the right play.”
Donovan Mitchell also scored 20 points for Utah, and Royce O’Neale added a season-high 16. Rudy Gobert had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Utah shot 55% from the field and scored 48 points in the paint. The Jazz also made 19 3-pointers.
“They got a lot of buckets at the rim tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “Obviously, that was tough to handle. They also shot it pretty good from three — they’re a good shooting team and a really tough team to defend.”
Gary Trent Jr. scored a season-high 31 points for Toronto, and Fred VanVleet added 24. Toronto lost for the sixth time in seven games despite scoring 37 points off 24 Jazz turnovers.
Birch gave Toronto an early spark, scoring all 14 of his points before halftime. He made back-to-back baskets to kickstart a 9-2 run that gave the Raptors a 23-17 lead in the first quarter.
Gay gave Utah an immediate lift even while playing on a minutes restriction. He made three 3-pointers and assisted another basket to help the Jazz rally and take a 42-31 lead early in the second quarter.
“I’m no slouch,” Gay said. “I am closing in on 20,000 points. There’s a lot of threes in there. I’m usually humble but I can score.”
VanVleet made 3-pointers on three straight possessions to erase Utah’s lead and put the Raptors ahead 53-51 shortly before halftime.
“We came out blitzing a lot and then we just stopped doing it,” Toronto forward Scottie Barnes said. “We just changed our game plan throughout the game. They were hitting a lot of threes and we just tried to do something to change it.”
The Jazz tightened up on defense in the third quarter, allowing them to create some separation. Toronto made only three baskets over the final nine minutes of the quarter. It opened the door for Utah to rebuild a double-digit lead.
Joe Ingles fed Gobert for a pair of dunks and drained a pair of 3-pointers to fuel a 15-2 run that put the Jazz up 98-80 early in the fourth quarter.
Raptors: OG Anunoby (left hip) and Precious Achiuwa (right shoulder tendonitis) were inactive for Toronto. … Pascal Siakam scored a season-low four points on 2-of-14 shooting. Siakim also dished out five assists. … Chris Boucher had a team-high eight rebounds.
Jazz: Bojan Bogdanovic had a season-high six assists. … Ingles had a season-high seven rebounds. … Utah outscored Toronto 57-20 in bench points.
Raptors: At Sacramento on Friday night.
Jazz: At Sacramento on Saturday night.