If the Utah Jazz indeed hold onto the top seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs, the grit they showed in fighting and scrapping past the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night will be a big reason why.
Multiple players pointed to the contributors of reserve guard Trent Forrest for getting the Jazz over the hump.
“The bench did an amazing job. Trent was amazing. I don’t think we win this game without him with the minutes he gave us in the third and the fourth,” said Rudy Gobert. “This one feels good because it was a fight.”
Forrest’s contributions were subtle with seven points, three assists and two rebounds in 15 minutes, but positive things usually happened during the three-to-four minutes stretches he played in all four quarters.
“He‘s big time for us. Whenever he stepped on the court we got something from him,” said Bojan Bogdanovic.
Forrest’s increased minutes the past few games are a result of injuries to Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley keeping them out of the lineup. Forrest isn’t being asked to replace that production, but rather just provide key minutes off the bench in stretches.
He tied for the team lead with a plus-8 in Saturday’s 106-102 win over Toronto, which speaks to his quiet contributions. Coach Quin Snyder highlighted what he believes are Forrest’s strengths after the game.
“I’ll tell you what I think he does. I think he really works defensively. He’s long, he had that one big block on (Fred) VanVleet and he’s unselfish. I think he has a great pace in pick-and-roll when he got in the lane,” said Snyder.
Forrest is on a two-way contract with the Jazz, and even though he hasn’t played much this season prior to the past few games, the point guard has been a sponge soaking up whatever he can from the veterans in front of him.
“I feel like for me I get to learn a lot from those guys, Mike and Don and even Joe (Ingles) in a sense cause they all kind of play my position so I always watch them and what they do and just try to use the things that they teach me and I pick up and try to just do that in the game,” said Forrest.
His most meaningful contributions came in succession during key stretches in both the third and fourth quarter.
During a 60-second sequence in the third, he played outstanding defense on a VanVleet step-back shot to force a miss, and then at the other end followed it up with great pick-and-roll execution that froze the defense and led to a lob pass to a cutting Derrick Favors for the easy bucket. On Utah’s next possession, Forrest drained an 11-foot jumper cutting Toronto’s lead to 77-75.
When Forrest left the game a few minutes later, the 74-68 deficit that he entered with was now level at 79-79.
In the fourth quarter, when Forrest checked in at the 9:18 mark the Jazz trailed 91-90. When he left the Jazz had a modest two-point lead.
His biggest sequence in the fourth came at the 6:29 mark when he first blocked a 13-foot step back jumper by VanVleet and then at the other end buried a corner 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 98-93.
Shooting is by no means Forrest’s milieux — but he was open and Snyder wants his players to take open 3-pointers.
“The shot that he hit in the corner, you guys know how I feel about that, you’re out there and you’re open and you’ve got to shoot it. Sometimes that’s not easy especially if you’re a young guy and you miss the first one. I thought that was obviously a really big shot for our team. It was worth more than three points,” said Snyder.
Forrest had a bad miss from an almost identical spot earlier in the game, but said that wasn’t on his mind when Ingles found him in the corner.
“Every day in practice we rep it out. Any corner 3, every 3 that we take we rep it out a lot, and the coach that I work with, he stays on top of me and even if you miss 3 in a row, however many you miss, the next one is always going in, so that was just my mindset going into that shot. For me it was just another shot to take,” said Forrest.
Forrest was a career 24.8% 3-point shooter in four years at Florida State from 2016 to 2020, and he’s not naïve and knows he’s got a lot of work ahead of him to improve his shooting. It’s ultimately what will determine if he ends up becoming a rotation player in the NBA.
Forrest said the main assistant coaches he works with are Lamar Skeeter and Keyon Dooling. He said Skeeter is the coach who has worked a lot with Royce O’Neal over the past few years, and he’s hopeful his shooting will have a similar uptick in the future.
Since arriving on his two-way rookie contract, Forrest said he’s been amazed at how much time the Jazz shooters put in working on their shots.
“I definitely get motivated with how much they put into their shooting,” said Forrest.
Against Toronto, during a couple of keys sequences he helped do the motivating for his teammates.