It feels real good. I was struggling a lot this season with injuries and my teammates had to hold it down for me while I was out. But I felt like I owed them, especially in this game. —Derrick Favors
LOS ANGELES — Early on in Game 7, it appeared the Utah Jazz could be in trouble in the post against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Center Rudy Gobert picked up a pair of quick fouls, relegating him to the bench. In fact, the 7-foot-1 Frenchman played a total of five minutes in the first half — he was whistled for his third foul with 10:22 left in the second quarter.
As it turned out, though, just as the Jazz managed to steal Game 1 at the Staples Center after Gobert suffered an injury in the opening minute, they won again here with minimal impact from Gobert.
That’s because forward Derrick Favors more than compensated for Gobert’s absence.
Favors recorded a double-double — 17 points (on 8-of-11 shooting from the field) and 11 rebounds — to go along with three assists in 30 minutes of action.
He helped the Jazz seize a double-digit lead in the first half and Utah rolled from there with a series-clinching 104-91 victory over the Clippers Sunday afternoon.
The way Favors sees it, he was simply returning a favor toward the end of a long season.
“It feels real good. I was struggling a lot this season with injuries and my teammates had to hold it down for me while I was out,” Favors said. “But I felt like I owed them, especially in this game. I just wanted to come out, be aggressive, make sure I had their backs. When Rudy got in foul trouble, I had to make sure I was ready mentally and physically and I just wanted to pay them back.”
Utah advances to Round 2 of the NBA playoffs and will face the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night.
After Gobert was sidelined — he finished with just one point and four rebounds in 13 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter — Favors furnished a threat inside, hitting a variety of shots and pulling down key rebounds, and helped the Jazz fashion a lead that they didn’t relinquish.
“It was unbelievable. Coming in and stepping up for the team, he gave a big lead for us,” Gobert said of Favors, who also fouled out late in the game. “Sometimes things don’t go well as a team, but having someone come in and play like that is big.”
In the first half, Favors played 16 minutes, scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
With Gobert on the bench in the first half, the Clippers pounded the ball inside but they couldn’t capitalize. During one stretch, Los Angeles missed a layup, a dunk and had a 3-second violation.
In the third quarter, Favors' jumper lifted Utah to a 12-point advantage. The Jazz led by as many as 21 in the second half.
Coach Quin Snyder wasn’t surprised by Favors’ strong performance Sunday.
“Well, he did that in Game 1, and for Derrick, you have to respect who he’s been as a professional this year because he hasn’t been healthy throughout the course of the year,” he said. “It’s been something he’s battled. He was out the last couple of weeks of the season and then coming back, I probably overplayed him in Game 2. He played too many minutes, and that impacts him a little bit. It’s easy to kind of fade in and out when your minutes are so variable as they’ve been.”
Without Gobert on the floor, the Jazz counted on Favors, who turned in one of the biggest games of his seven-year career in Game 7.
“I think sometimes it’s good to be needed and I think there was part of him that understood that he was going to have to play at a high level for us to have a chance to win and he did,” Snyder said of Favors. “He’s different than Rudy. I think he’s a different style of player and I think some of who he was tonight was a good fit for what we needed — his length and his quickness and his ability to kind of get in the pocket and shoot that little floater. I thought there was a lot of things that he did that contrast with Rudy but were really effective. I can’t say enough about his effort and his focus.”