Oh, I was rusty man, to tell you the truth. I missed a couple of passes, but I made a lot of open shots and I felt I did a good job defensively to help my team win. —Derrick Favors
SALT LAKE CITY — The simple fact is the Utah Jazz lose when Derrick Favors doesn’t play this season. The Jazz are 0-9 without Favors this year, including the last three games since the All-Star break.
So you can imagine how happy the Jazz were to welcome Favors back to the lineup Wednesday night. And it wasn’t surprising that they got back on the winning track with Favors helping lead the way in a comfortable 110-98 victory over Boston.
Favors scored 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting and more importantly he helped on the defensive end against the Celtics. He blocked three shots and kept the middle clogged up as starting Celtic inside players Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass managed just 17 total points on 6-of-21 shooting.
“It was good to get him back out there,’’ said Utah coach Tyrone Corbin. “He does so many good things for us on the defensive end it really makes it easier for the other guys. Offensively when he can get the ball in his spots, he is really good.’’
The fourth-year pro from Georgia Tech had missed seven games in three different stretches since mid-January due to a right hip injury. The first time it was called a hip abductor strain, then it was a hip inflammation and most recently a hip sprain, which happened early in the Philadelphia game on Feb. 12.
Favors said the hip injuries aren't a long-term problem.
“Nah, it was just something that happened,’’ he said. “I came down wrong and it’s like a pulled muscle or something. But after you stretch a long time and ice it down, it goes away.’’
So are you 100 percent now, Derrick?
“About 97 percent,’’ he said with a smile. “Yeah getting close, man.’’
Right from the start, Favors didn’t show any signs of rust. He got a rebound in the first 30 seconds, a basket in the first minute and a blocked shot a little more than two minutes into the game.
He made his first four shots, the first three on 12- to 15-foot jumpers and the fourth on a follow dunk off a Richard Jefferson miss. He only played eight minutes in the first quarter and left with the Jazz leading 15-12.
Favors returned for the final six minutes of the first half and added seven more points. He played just seven minutes in the third quarter, scoring a bucket, and he might have stayed out the rest of the game as the Jazz built up a 17-point lead. However when Boston cut the lead to 10 with a little more than seven minutes left, he came back to the lineup and added three more points.
Although he looked sharp from the start, Favors didn’t feel like he was.
“Oh, I was rusty man, to tell you the truth,’’ he said. “I missed a couple of passes, but I made a lot of open shots and I felt I did a good job defensively to help my team win.’’
Favors’ teammates noticed the difference he brings on the defensive end.
“Heck, yeah, you always defend differently when Favors is behind you,’’ said Richard Jefferson. “You have more margin for error.’’
Gordon Hayward added, “Having him back there is huge for us. Everybody is a little more confident when he’s behind you.’’
When it was pointed out to Favors that his team is 0-9 without him this year, he became a bit uncomfortable.
“I don’t pay attention to that,’’ he said. “I just try to go out there and help any way I can. If we’re 0-9 without me then that means I got to stop being hurt and stay in the game.’’