Man, it’s great. I’m just glad to be healthy and out here with my teammates and get a win. —Alec Burks
SALT LAKE CITY — The Rudy Gobert era got rolling Wednesday at Vivint Arena, and the Jazz center was everything one might expect. He still covers more ground than Texas.
But to Quin Snyder’s delight, it wasn’t all about his acclaimed center. It also involved resurrecting an old but persistent fantasy regarding the play of Derrick Favors and Alec Burks. It came true in a 106-96 win over Denver. Favors annexed the third quarter, Burks the fourth. Is this what Jazz fans can expect? Snyder does.
The Jazz need all they can get from them.
For all the anticipation of new acquisitions Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell, the newest arrivals actually are Burks and Favors. Where have these guys been? Oh, right.
At the doctor’s office.
There are 81 games left in the season, but so far it has worked exactly how Snyder had it drawn up, with Favors extending his range, Burks driving the rim and Gobert hovering over all.
It couldn’t have gone better for the Jazz. Practically everyone contributed. Six players scored in double figures, led by Gobert’s 18. If it comes down to the last game of the season to decide who makes the playoffs, this could tip the scales. As it was, the game tipped the noise meter to high.
The Hayward-less Jazz, for the time being, are doing fine.
“Offensively, we’ve lost not just scoring, but a lot of shots,” Snyder said. “So what we are going to see is who picks up the slack.”
A large part of it on Wednesday was a pair of guys who spent the last few years in hospital gowns, not uniforms. Burks finished with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting, while Favors had 14 points, making 7 of 14 shots.
It’s been hard for fans to give up on the idea that Favors and Burks could still be a major force. The two players have been unable to stay out of the shop. They come in for repairs every 3,000 miles. Favors missed 30 regular-season games last year, 20 the year before. Burks has played in just 100 of a possible 246 games the last three seasons.
But on Wednesday they delivered both memories and mojo.
Their arrival was actually fairly unexpected, not unlike the introductions to start the game. In their tasteful deep blue arena, the team’s game operations people opted not to start out with fireworks and smoke machines. There was a stirring video, a few opening words from Joe Ingles, and a lot of thumping bass music.
Then it was time to take it out for a spin.
It turned out the team hoping to make its name on defense and sharing the offensive load did so. The Jazz made better than half their shots and hunkered down defensively in the second half, finishing the game with five blocks and nine steals.
While Gobert was predictably ferocious with 18 points and 10 rebounds, it was Favors and Burks that flipped the switch. After trailing by 15 points in the first half, they cut it to nine at the break.
Suddenly they had gifted the night to their fans. Rubio whipped a pass to Favors, who put up a soft lefty layup. Rubio then threw cross-court to Favors, who converted a jumper from 16 feet. Shortly after, Favors shouldered Paul Millsap to the floor.
This wasn’t going to be a passive Favors night.
He dunked in transition, took a kick-out pass for another mid-range shot, and just for a change, passed to Rubio for a 3.
Then he turned the time over to Burks and said goodnight.
In the fourth quarter, Burks made a screeching dunk, followed by a 3-pointer. Next came a reverse layup, to put the Jazz ahead by nine.
“Man, it’s great,” Burks said. “I’m just glad to be healthy and out here with my teammates and get a win.”
It’s always good to get out of the hospital and into the sun.