It was disappointing Dante had to go out. I thought he really gave us a lift in the first half. —Jazz coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — It was somewhat reminiscent of what happened seven months earlier when Dante Exum went running off the floor Sunday night during the third quarter and headed straight to the locker room after suffering an injury on the south end of the Vivint Arena floor.
Exum had hurt his shoulder in a preseason game against Phoenix in early October and went sprinting off the length of the court straight to the locker room holding his left shoulder. This time Exum ran off the court hopping, favoring his left leg, and went right past the bench toward the locker room. By the end of the quarter came the diagnosis of “left hamstring soreness” and that Exum wouldn’t return to the game.
Exum’s injury certainly wasn’t the reason for Utah’s 13-point loss Sunday night, but his absence, following an energetic start, coupled with limited minutes for usual starter Derrick Favors and Ricky Rubio missing his third straight game, made it tough for the Jazz to overcome a determined Houston team.
“It was disappointing Dante had to go out,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “I thought he really gave us a lift in the first half.”
Exum, who had played just 17 minutes total in the Oklahoma City series, entered the game less than three minutes into the game for Royce O’Neale and scored consecutive Jazz baskets, first on a drive from the left side and then one from the right. Later in the quarter after making a free throw, he again made consecutive baskets for the Jazz on a floater with his left hand and another drive up the right side.
Then late in the quarter he picked up his third foul in the final minute for apparently hitting James Harden from behind on a 3-point attempt. Exum complained to official Ken Mauer and then started waving his arms as he headed to the bench, exhorting the crowd to boo even louder after the questionable call.
Exum didn’t get back into the game until midway through the third quarter, but this time he only lasted a little over a minute before coming down wrong on his leg while running the baseline. He went off the court briefly, came back on limping and then fired up a 3-point shot before waving himself out of the game.
“One thing I respect about him is most guys would have fallen to the floor and stop playing, but he took the three right after that,” said Donovan Mitchell. “That’s the type of kid he is. We fed off his energy in the first half. He’s a tough kid and I’m really proud of the way he played.”
Favors was listed as questionable before the game because of a sprained left ankle he suffered early in the third quarter of Friday’s loss. He was cleared to play right before Sunday’s game, but didn’t start as Snyder went with Jae Crowder in the starting lineup.
Although he had just five points and one rebound in 16 minutes, he topped the Jazz with a plus-14 in the plus-minus category, one of just two positives on the Jazz team.
“Derrick was obviously not at full strength, but we felt like if he could give us something in limited minutes and he played very well in that capacity,” said Snyder. “(I have) a lot of respect for him and his competitive spirit that he wanted to be out there and try to help the team even though he’s not 100 percent.”
Favors just smiled and said, “Good,” when asked how his ankle felt during the game and afterwards.
“It was good, I was fighting through it, I didn’t want to complain about it, but it’s good,” he said. “Every team goes through it, we can’t use that as an excuse. Everybody’s banged up, hamstring, ankle, knee, whatever it is, we just try to play through it as much as we can.”
There was no update after the game Sunday on Exum or Favors' status for Tuesday's Game 5 in Houston.