SALT LAKE CITY — With Derrick Favors still out with a hip injury and his return up in the air, the Jazz have needed someone to step up in the paint. Center Enes Kanter has been trying to be that guy.
Kanter, who has averaged nearly 23 points during Utah's first three games after the All-Star break, has been able to replace the offensive production the Jazz lost when Favors went out injured.
He posted his second-straight 25-point game in the Jazz's loss to Minnesota Saturday, matching his career high in scoring. The third-year center shot 11 of 14 from the field and connected on his last eight attempts from the floor.
“Especially when Derrick’s out, we want to try to go to (Kanter) more on the block,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “He did a good job getting the ball on the block. We still need to control the paint better defensively and that’s one of the things we need to get better at.”
Kanter's 25-point performance Saturday came on the heels of a 25-point, 13-rebound output Friday at Portland. However, his performances haven't resulted in any changes in the win-loss column.
Utah is 0-9 without Favors in the lineup, and just 1-24 with Kanter in the starting lineup.
“I’m not really worried about my scoring,” Kanter said. “We just picked up our third-straight loss. I really don’t worry about my scoring.”
What Favors brings defensively might have helped cool down Minnesota’s unconvential center Kevin Love, who scored 37 points and picked up his first career triple-double in the Timberwolves’ victory. As a team, Minnesota outscored the Jazz 50-38 in the paint Saturday.
“(Favors) is a huge part of our team,” Kanter said. “Derrick is a hustle guy and on the defense he’s really helping us. He’s blocking shots and getting all those defensive rebounds. We really needed him tonight.”
Corbin said the Jazz can’t afford to miss any of their key defensive players, especially against a high-tempo team like Minnesota.
“We need all of our pieces,” Corbin said. “We need everybody that we have and Derrick is a key part of what we’re doing. It’s a young team and it’s unfortunate with this group that if one guy is out of the key guys we have, it throws our whole rhythm off.”
But until Favors returns, Kanter will continue to be the Jazz’s guy in the paint.
Corbin said he’s already seen improvements from his young center.
“Since we’ve been short-handed, we’ve been able to get him more touches on the post,” Corbin said. “He’s doing a good job getting on the low post, low spots there and making plays. He’s getting better. He’s continuing to work on his game and getting better, especially on the offensive end.”