If you want to know why the Utah Jazz brought back Derrick Favors last offseason, look no further than Game 1 of their first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.
Obviously the result is not what the Jazz wanted, as they lost 112-109 to the Grizzlies, but it is with absolute certainty that I tell you it was not because of the play of Derrick Favors.
It’s been sort of difficult to evaluate Favors this season. He hasn’t looked as spry as he once was, he has had some defensive lapses that were questionable and he hasn’t really been the boost for the second unit that everyone thought he would be.
On the other hand, he’s certainly an upgrade over Tony Bradley, and it’s really hard to look like you’re playing up to the level of the starter in front of you when his name is Rudy Gobert, a two-time (most likely soon-to-be three-time) Defensive Player of the Year.
Whether Favors was saving up his energy for the playoffs or whether he just found another level to go to considering the stakes and circumstances, he showed exactly why the Jazz went out last offseason and spent the full mid-level exception to bring him back to Utah.
Gobert picked up his fourth foul with nine minutes left in the third quarter, forcing Jazz head coach Quin Snyder to bring Favors in earlier and for longer than he would have originally planned. The Jazz missed nine 3-pointers and turned the ball over four times in the third quarter, and one of the only reasons the Jazz even remotely were still within striking distance was because Favors was electric.
“He had great energy when he came in the game,” Snyder said. “He made plays on the offensive boards, he finished it around the rim and gave us a big lift with Rudy in foul trouble.”
Favors had nine points, five rebounds and three blocks in the third quarter alone and finished the night with 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
When Gobert fouled out with just over four minutes left in the game, the Jazz trailed by eight points. But, with timely rebounds, a dunk and clutch free throws, Favors helped the Jazz cut the lead.
“Fav gave us a chance. He brought us back into this game,” Gobert said of his teammate. “That’s why we brought him back. He’s a great player and a huge part of our team and we didn’t get the win tonight, but there’s going to be some nights when Fav wins us some games. He was huge tonight.”
The Jazz have always had plans and goals that were greater and went beyond the regular season, and Favors is a part of those plans. The Jazz needed a reliable backup center who knew the system and could hang in tough situations when the physicality of the postseason ramps up. They needed someone who wouldn’t buckle under the pressure, but rise to it.
“He’s had games like that,” Snyder said. “There’s games he doesn’t play as many minutes, but he’s always been ready. Obviously, I think tonight, mentally he was prepared and I thought he took his game to another level.”
On a night when the Jazz were upset in the opening game of the postseason, there was a lone bright spot and a silver lining. The Jazz will need Favors through these playoffs, and if he delivers like he did on Sunday night, he’ll have done his job.