I’m back to being 100 percent. I’m back moving the way I can move and playing the way that I know I can play and it’s a bigger advantage for us. —Derrick Favors
Sweat still dripped profusely off the forehead of Derrick Favors.
Not long after logging a new career playoff high with 20 points, 16 boards and three assists to help the Utah Jazz beat the OKC Thunder 102-95 on Wednesday, he had to quickly address the media for a postgame interview.
“It was a must-win game for us before we head back to our place,” Favors described. “So we just came out and was aggressive ”
Star rookie Donovan Mitchell quickly interrupted the presser once he noticed the perspiration and teased him, “You are sweating, bro!”
“Y’all was rushing me to come out man, I was trying to, you know, get myself together,” Favors shot back, before asking a media relations member, “Y'all got a towel?”
That fresh towel was the only thing that could cool the big man down after his last postseason performance.
But as the Jazz return home for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday, Favors is doing his best to keep that same assertiveness from Game 2 in front of the fans at Vivint Arena.
“Just got to come out ready. Just got to come out with a lot of energy, feed off the crowd,” Favors said. “We know OKC’s going to come out, they’re going to be aggressive and come out playing hard so we’ve got to match their energy, match their intensity and most important thing, just have fun.
“It’s the playoffs, we’re going against a good team so we’ve just got to go out there, have fun, play hard, play with a lot of energy, feed off the crowd and try to get the win.”
Offensive rebounding, strong rolling to the basket off picks, defensive intensity against OKC’s Carmelo Anthony and 3-point shooting were all clicking for Favors as the Jazz evened the series 1-1. Eight of Favors’ 16 boards were collected on the offensive glass while knocking down two of three 3-point attempts — notably from the corner.
Mitchell certainly noticed Favors’ intensity on the glass in the heat of the battle.
“When he got it, I missed the layup or something, and he grabbed it over three people and dunked it,” Mitchell recalled. “I took a second to get kinda get back on defense. I was like, ‘Man, he’s having a game right now.’
“He’s been like that all year, but he’s definitely turned it up,” Mitchell added. “As you guys saw last night what he can do. When he’s hitting threes, too, well, he’s unstoppable.”
In Game 1, Favors was effective in different ways, logging seven points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks in Utah’s 116-108 loss on Sunday, but wasn’t as impactful as he was in Game 2.
Nobody on the Jazz team specifically challenged him to do better on the glass, but he pushed himself to play better. The results were certainly apparent.
“Well, he was pretty good in Game 1. If you remember, especially early in the game, he was one of the reasons we got into a quick start,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “Favs he’s been there and he’s a good example of a guy who has a lot of times he’s given himself up, whether it’s being spaced or running or playing defense, there’s times he gets rewarded for that where his line dumps out and there’s other times when he doesn’t necessarily, Rudy (Gobert) as well.
“Those guys can play really well and not have great lines on the box score.”
More than any statistics, though, is Favors’ improved health.
After being limited to 50 games last season, while battling knee and back injuries, Favors continues to affirm that he’s 100 percent healthy in the final year of his contract.
“I’m back to being 100 percent. I’m back moving the way I can move and playing the way that I know I can play and it’s a bigger advantage for us,” Favors said during Friday’s practice.
OKC and other teams for that matter can no longer exploit him during isolation situations at his size while being hampered by pain because his body feels much better. That health factor has already made this year’s postseason experience much more enjoyable for the longest tenured Jazzman.
With Game 3 being set for Saturday at 8 p.m. in Vivint Arena, OKC Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he certainly doesn’t want to let Favors go off again, especially on the glass, but Favors is sweating the small stuff.
“I think when he’s attacking the glass like he did in the second game, and we’re not doing a good job of gang rebounding and getting out and starting our break, when they’re offensive rebounding the way they did in Game 2, it’s harder for us to get out in the open court, get out in transition,” Mitchell said of Favors. “So we have to settle for half-court offense and the game slows down and we don’t want that.”