SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz had a noticeable Paul Millsap-sized hole in their starting lineup when they took the court Wednesday evening.
The visiting Atlanta Hawks handed the Jazz their third consecutive loss, 102-91, in the veteran player’s first absence of the season and only the 14th miss due to injury in his seven-year career.
“We missed him a lot,” coach Tyrone Corbin said afterward. “Paul is a big part of what we do here. We miss his experience. We can go to him on the weak side at different times. He does the little things more than just score — defensive plays he can make helping us recover.”
Millsap injured his ankle in the Jazz's Monday night loss to Boston but played through it. He did not practice Tuesday and missed shootaround Wednesday before making the game-time decision to rest his sore ankle.
Prior to the game, Millsap said he was going to “see if I can get out there and move around, but if not I don't want to be out there and hurt the team.”
The Jazz missed out on Millsap’s 15 points and seven boards per game, but Derrick Favors stepped into Millsap's place in the starting lineup and did what he could.
“I found out during shootaround. Coach told me I might start,” Favors said. “I didn’t really find out officially until before the game. Paul said he wasn’t going, so Coach put me in the starting lineup.”
The third-year player logged 38 minutes and scored 17 points with a season-high 15 rebounds for the Jazz. He also blocked three shots and had three assists. That is nearly double his average scoring output (9.3 points per game) and more than twice his usual rebounds per game (6.3).
“I thought Derrick did a good job coming out and playing a lot of minutes for us,” Corbin said. “He got a little tired, but we’re short-handed.”
Favors scored five points in each of the first two quarters and in the final seven of the fourth quarter. Corbin said he seemed to come out a little slow, but made a difference once he warmed up.
“After he got himself going, I thought he was aggressive on the defensive end,” Corbin said. “I thought he made some great plays defensively for us. I thought he had the ball on the post and made some good moves there, got some big rebounds for us.”
Favors added that, while starting does not affect his routine entering the game, he went in a little more carefully with the added minutes.
“It doesn’t (change my mindset), but I have to not be as aggressive as if I’m coming off the bench because I don’t want to get in foul trouble,” he said. “I just want to come out there and just rebound — play my game and rebound.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org