SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After dropping five of the last six games entering Sacramento, Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors described Wednesday’s game as a “must-win” for the team.
A victory against the lowly Kings surely wouldn’t signify any immediate impact in the standings, but after the rough patch of injuries and losses, Utah simply needed to feel some sort of success again.
“We need a win,” Favors said during shootaround. “We definitely need a win so I think tonight is kind of a must-win game for us just to get us back on track so I’m pretty sure we’re going to come out with a lot of energy and play as hard as we can.”
As promised, the Jazz played with much more enthusiasm to snap their two-game losing streak by defeating the Sacramento Kings, 120-105 at Golden 1 Center.
Rookie Donovan Mitchell took his show on the road, wowing a sellout crowd of 17,583 fans with a string of highlight-reel dunks and plays.
He kicked things off with a steal and fastbreak windmill jam at 3:41 in the first then at 6:14 in the third, he split two Kings defenders to make way for a vicious one-handed driving dunk. Mitchell also caught a two-handed alley-oop from Joe Ingles off a backdoor cut at 5:45 in the third.
Mitchell finished with 34 points and three steals on 14 for 19 shooting as the Jazz’s go-to guy. The performance marked his fifth game of 30-plus points this season, to lead all rookies. Even members of the media could only shake their head as Mitchell had it going with 23 second-half points.
“I fed off of this one just because somebody in the crowd was talking,” Mitchell said. “I heard him the entire time. I don’t know who it was but that’s when I got mentally ready to go and those dunks were just for them.”
Donovan Mitchell describes his aggressive approach to attacking the basket tonight in Sacramento. pic.twitter.com/ByzeyP8DD8— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) January 18, 2018
After hearing boos from the hometown fans during Monday’s loss to Indiana, Jazz guard Rodney Hood put the negative energy behind him to post 25 points and eight rebounds off the bench. He insists that the booing situation is now behind him as he knows his value to the team.
“My teammates were cheering me on, telling me to be aggressive even before I got in the game,” Hood said. “It was big for my confidence.”
Jazz guard Rodney Hood said his teammates were cheering him on during his 25-point performance in Sacramento. pic.twitter.com/7lyCWnrs8C— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) January 18, 2018
Utah would lead by as many as 20 points in the game, scoring 27 points off 19 turnovers. The energy, purpose and passion to win were certainly evident from the tipoff.
“Their size and length at the wing really bothered us,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “We turned the ball over way too much. Got off to a nice start but we kept them in the game by fumbling it, passing it.”
The Jazz didn’t necessarily play well in the opening quarter, falling behind by as many as 10, but closed it out strong with a 3-pointer by Hood to beat the buzzer.
In the second quarter, Utah shot 50 percent from the field with just four turnovers, while fighting out of the deficit. Hood and Mitchell both contributed 11 points apiece as the Jazz entered halftime with a 52-42 edge.
During the third quarter, the Jazz started with a 6-1 run behind threes from Joe Ingles and Jonas Jerebko and went up by as many as 20 after a Ingles 3-pointer at 8:34.
In the fourth, Utah shot 64.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Ingles would end with 14 points and four assists, Favors contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Ricky Rubio added nine points, seven assists and four steals.
Willie Cauley-Stein led the Kings with 26 points and 10 rebounds while Bogdan Bogdanovic finished with 25 points and six boards.
The Jazz (18-26) will host the New York Knicks at 8:30 p.m. MT Friday on ESPN.
Even Jazz coach Quin Snyder could agree that the latest victory was much needed.
“Sometimes you’re in a desert, you need some water and I think we did a good job of setting the tone defensively because that’s what you can control,” Snyder said.