It was pretty important just to get us back on track, to get that winning feeling back. —Jazz forward Trevor Booker
NEW ORLEANS — Not surprisingly, the Utah Jazz’s locker room atmosphere was vastly different Saturday night than it had been after frustrating losses in Boston, Toronto and Memphis earlier in the week.
Trevor Booker razzed Derrick Favors during an interview and then teasingly threw medical wrap onto Joe Ingles’ shoulder — a nice shot, by the way — while the small forward was on live TV with play-by-play announcer Craig Bolerjack.
Instead of gloom, doom and looks of despair, there were smiles and laughter, even eye contact during interviews, which hadn’t always been the case after the rough losses.
The Jazz needed this one, for their confidence, for their playoff hopes, and they got it.
It was only one win over a sub-.500 team but this 106-94 victory over the Pelicans provided as much relief as someone feels when a painful sliver is removed from the bottom of their inflamed foot.
“This is a game that we definitely needed. We lost a (few) close ones to Boston and Toronto and Memphis,” Favors said a night after the team lost in Memphis for its eighth defeat in 10 games. “We just came out with a lot of energy. Everybody was ready from the jump, and we got the win.”
In February, the Jazz came to New Orleans on a seven-game winning streak.
They left with a loss and, after a week off for the All-Star break, proceeded to get mired in an extended slump.
On Saturday, the Jazz came to New Orleans on a five-game losing streak.
This time, they left with a win and can only hope that this result reverses the trend of what happened the last time they visited the Big Easy.
“It was pretty important just to get us back on track, to get that winning feeling back,” Jazz backup forward Trevor Booker said. “We dropped some games that we felt like we could’ve, should’ve had and we finished this game out.”
The Jazz’s top players played like they should in a big game.
Favors scored 28 points a 11 rebounds, six blocked and three assists.
Gordon Hayward contributed 24 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Rudy Gobert hauled in 18 rebounds and added two blocks and five points.
As a bonus, the Jazz got 11 points apiece from Booker, Rodney Hood and Shelvin Mack, while also receiving a nice boost from the bench overall.
“Our group’s done this (and) they just have character,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We talked about playing the right way and they did it. The ball really moved. I think that’s one of the most important things, especially when you’re a little bit tired and going through adversity.”
This game followed the Jazz’s familiar pattern of taking and then blowing a big lead as Utah jumped ahead by double digits only to see the Pelicans roar back and tie it on a 3-pointer by Anthony Davis (29 points).
That’s when the Jazz put a twist on their usually predictable plot.
Hayward hit a tough shot, falling backward to get it over AD, and the Jazz took off.
Utah closed the third quarter on a 14-0 run, with Hayward and Favors each chipping in six points.
Booker finished that flurry with some flare, nearly tearing off the rim with one of his patented power dunks to put the Jazz up 84-70.
Snyder thought it was big how Favors and Hayward stepped up their games when the team needed them the most. He pointed out that the Jazz even talked about what they’d do if the game played out this way.
“Derrick mentioned the physicality — when the physicality gets raised, we have to respond to that, and I think that happened,” Snyder said. “Gordon also mentioned how committed we have to be to moving the ball and getting good shots and obviously taking care of it.”
Best of all, they both went out and made sure they played how they preached.
“I think you saw both of those things happen during that time,” Snyder said. “Obviously those two guys led the way with it.”
Booker loved what he saw from the team captains.
“It was great. That’s what we need out of them,” Booker said.
Trying to make sure Favors, his locker neighbor, could hear what he was saying, Booker added, “I think Fav got mad. It’s something that he needs to do more often. I think I’ll start slapping him before the game or something — something to get him mad.”
“I just wanted to win, man, basically,” Favors said when asked if he was playing mad. “We’d lost three in a row on this road trip and basically I just wanted to win, so I just came out there and played as hard as I could.”
The Jazz played the fourth quarter like their playoff lives were on the line, which they were, to some point.
Combined with Houston’s loss at Chicago, Utah (29-33) now trails the Rockets (30-32) by one game for the West’s final playoff spot.
“We felt like we should’ve won more games. That’s the biggest thing,” Booker said of the Jazz’s 1-3 road trip. “We learned from it, you know. It’s just good to get that winning feeling back.”