Utah Jazz basketball: Big men making strides, giving Jazz good chances to win

By James Patrick

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Nov. 16 2012 9:54 a.m. MST

Boston Celtics forwards Paul Pierce, left, and Chris Wilcox, right, surround Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) in an attempt to steal the ball in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Celtics won 98-93. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Elise Amendola, AP

BOSTON — Jazz coach Ty Corbin frequently talks about the learning process his team is going through. So far on their four-game road trip, they've learned that justice isn't always found in the wins column.

The Jazz (4-5) practiced in Boston on Thursday morning before heading to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Friday. So far on their East Coast swing, the Jazz won a game in Toronto thanks to a freak 3-pointer from Al Jefferson and lost a game in Boston that easily could have swung Utah's way.

Corbin said he liked the way the Jazz responded to the Celtics as they had several chances to take the lead or tie the game in their 98-93 loss.

"I thought we hung in there, gave ourselves a chance to win," Corbin said.

"We had the chance to take the one-point lead there, had a good-executed play, had a good look at it but missed a shot. The guys did a really good job at fighting for everything they got."

Much of the credit can go to the Jazz's big men. The Jazz are third in the league in blocks per game with 8.0 per contest. Against the Celtics, the Jazz pulled down 18 offensive rebounds. Boston coach Doc Rivers singled out Derrick Favors' night as he pulled down five offensive rebounds and scored 14 points in almost 26 minutes of work.

"Our initial defense was great," Rivers said. "They just got a ton of offensive rebounds and fouls. Favors, I don't know, how many did he end up with, 14 free throws? I mean, it was amazing."

Favors, who made 10 of 14 free throws, has increasingly been doing that kind of work for the Jazz. Though he averages about 25 minutes a game, Favors leads the team in blocks with 2.2 a game. Together, with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, the Jazz's big men are doing what they can on both ends of the floor to keep games close.

"We're just out there doing our job," Favors said. "If the guards give us the ball in the paint, we're going to make a play."

Unselfish team play has been a Jazz characteristic for decades. On offense, the Jazz have seven players averaging 9.7 points per game or more. Despite none of their starters nor key bench players being taller than 6-foo-10, they are among the league's best teams in blocks.

Jazz guard Earl Watson said that's simply who the Jazz are.

"We don't even talk about it," Watson said. "We don't emphasize blocks or steals, we don't talk about it. Those stats are unselfish stats. No one gets credit for that, as a team, that shows our depth and what we're doing to try to win games."

The next opportunity for a win comes in Philadelphia before the Jazz finish the road swing in Washington on Saturday. In theory, the Jazz match up well with the 76ers, who are the second lowest-scoring team in the NBA, averaging 88.0 points a contest.

But there's no guarantee the Jazz will have as many second-chance scoring opportunities as they had against the Celtics. The loss was a tough pill to swallow, but there's always another game to get ready to play.

"We'll just move on," Favors said. "There's more games to play. A lot more games."

Jefferson clears up 'wanting' to play in Boston

BOSTON — With the NHL not playing and the Red Sox done for the winter, the Boston media chose to stir the pot with Al Jefferson, a former Celtic, on Wednesday night.

An interview with a gaggle of Boston reporters did not start well when a reporter said to Jefferson that Jefferson had indicated last year he wanted to come back to Boston. After the game, Jefferson was still upset about that interlude, asking a reporter who was an eyewitness to the interview session to verify for a Jazz official that he hadn't said he wanted to come back to Boston.

The interview session led to headlines such as, "Jefferson would 'love' to return to Boston," on Boston websites.

Jefferson did say of Boston, "This is my first home. This will always be my home away from home. Danny Ainge gave me a chance when nobody else did. If that situation were to happen, I'd love to do that again."

Jefferson also said, "Right now, I just want to be in the NBA. I want to be with the Utah Jazz to be honest with you. I'd love to stay in Utah. They do things the right way, kind of remind me of Boston, first class. They do everything the right way."

— James Patrick

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