SALT LAKE CITY — In a vital road victory last weekend that might've saved Utah's season, Derrick Favors came up with a monster performance.
Favors had 28 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots as the Jazz beat the Pelicans 106-94 last Saturday at New Orleans.
That much-needed victory not only snapped Utah's five-game losing streak and helped keep the Jazz well within striking distance in the Western Conference playoff race, but it also made Favors the NBA's only player to post at least 25 points, 10 boards and five blocks in a game two times this season.
He had 25 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks in a November game at Miami. For the season, Favors is averaging 16.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.49 blocks a game — each of which ranks second-best on the Jazz team.
Asked Tuesday what the key was for him in his huge game against New Orleans, Favors' candid response brought an appreciative chuckle from the assembled media.
"Um, I just played great," he said with unbridled honesty. "I got the ball and I made plays. I made sure I got the rebounds, and I've just been playing good defense, helping on the help side, making sure I guard my man, and I got some blocks in.
"I feel like I have something to prove every game I play, not just against one team or against one player. Every time I step out on the court, I feel like I have something to prove. And I try to play that way every time I step out on the court."
Utah coach Quin Snyder said his 6-foot-10 power forward could consistently put up those kind of eye-popping numbers if he'll just keep pushing himself to do so.
"He's capable of doing it," Snyder said. "He just needs to keep demanding of himself, and we keep demanding of him. There's always going to be good games and bad games, but that was an outstanding game, there's no question about it.
"He did so many different things. The way he was able to guard (Ryan) Anderson on the perimeter, the way that he was able to protect the rim. I mean, the defensive stuff for him, if his focus stays there, his offense will just continue to flow."
BE PREPARED: Favors was asked how much his maturity and work ethic have helped him improve as a player during his six-year NBA career.
"I think preparation for me has changed a lot," he said. "Being ready before practice and being ready before a game, knowing what I need to work on, working on my game during practice and after practice. I make sure everything is precise. I make sure I have a good rhythm going. Like I said, I just have stuff to prove every time I step on the court."
TALL PAUL: Speaking of a guy who's used a tremendous work ethic to continually improve his game, Atlanta power forward Paul Millsap is a prime example of that.
Millsap, who spent the first seven years of his NBA career with the Jazz before moving on to the Hawks as a free agent in 2013, has averaged 17.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in his three seasons in Atlanta.
And since leaving Utah, where Millsap averaged 12.4 points and 7.0 rebounds a game over seven seasons, he's been named to the NBA's Eastern Conference All-Star team all three years in Atlanta.
Coming into Tuesday night's game against Utah, the 6-foot-8 Millsap was averaging a team-leading 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the Hawks. He scored 28 points in the two teams' first meeting of the season, but his last-second baseline jumper that would've given Atlanta the victory wouldn't fall in Utah's 97-96 win.
Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer is mighty glad to have Millsap on his team.
“He means so much," he said. "He fits us well. He’s a great teammate. He plays both ends of the court at a high level. He’s very unique in how talented he is with some of the things he does. I’m just very thankful that he’s with us.”
TREY'S TIME: Since the Jazz made a trade with Atlanta and acquired point guard Shelvin Mack on Feb. 18, Utah guard Trey Burke has seen his playing time diminish considerably.
Asked how Burke has handled his lesser role, Snyder said, "He's been great. We've had situations, and I'd like to be able to play everybody."
Snyder likened the situation to what rookie forward Trey Lyles has had to deal with, as he saw plenty of playing time in Favors' injury absence but has played far less since Favors returned to the lineup after overcoming bad-back issues.
"A lot of their preparation has to be just being ready for whatever the game holds," he said. "That's what we ask of them and, in Trey (Burke's) case, he's been terrific.
"The team is his priority, and I think everybody knows the things that he can do and we value that. He'll have some opportunities to come in the game and give us a punch offensively, which he's done and helped us win games."
MIGHTY MACK: Atlanta may have traded Mack away to the Jazz last month, but coach Budenholzer had plenty of nice things to say about his former backup point guard who immediately moved into the starting lineup in Utah.
“Shelvin was great. I’m happy he’s getting such a great opportunity here," he said. "He’s just such a high-level basketball IQ guy. I was joking, I think he knows our offense better than I do.
"He’s always into the game. He’s engaged. I think he makes high-level reads where everybody is. Defensively I think he gets after it. Again, he understands team concepts. He’s just a great addition for Utah and he’s helped us a lot the past couple of years.”