SALT LAKE CITY — The last thing Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder wanted to talk about after Thursday’s 118-91 domination of the Houston Rockets was the circumstances surrounding Rudy Gobert’s quick ejection less than three minutes into the game. Twice when asked about it, Snyder demurred and said he didn’t want to focus on that.
Instead he preferred to talk about his players who stepped up in Gobert’s absence, particularly Derrick Favors and Epke Udoh, who each came up with season-highs in both points and rebounds. Favors finished with a game-high 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Udoh had nine points and seven rebounds and two blocks. Between the two of them, they shot 14 of 18 from the field.
“The way Derrick responded was terrific, Epke as well,” Snyder said. “For (Udoh) to come in and do that . . . coaches always say ‘be ready, you never know when your time will come’ and all that. Sometimes those words seem hollow. Tonight Epke showed why being that much of a professional to be ready, both physically and mentally, to play. And you can’t say enough about Fave.”
The Jazz had Gobert for a grand total of 2 minutes and 47 seconds before he was sent to the locker room after he was called for his second foul and he promptly swiped some items off the scorers table and onto the floor.
Favors was already coming into the game to replace him, but with Gobert gone, he needed some help inside and Udoh was ready.
“Opportunity can come at any moment, and tonight was that moment,” Udoh said. “I was out there to give my team energy, play defense, to do whatever I can.”
Prior to Thursday, Udoh had played in just 16 of Utah’s 25 games and over the past eight games had played a grand total of 17 minutes in three games, which he surpassed on Thursday alone with 19 minutes. But he knew his time was coming when Gobert left the court, so he quickly left to use the restroom and get his mind right.
“I knew what time it was, so I just came out there to have an impact defensively,” he said.
“There’s not a better example of next man up,” said Donovan Mitchell, who had an off-night for him with just six points, in speaking of Udoh. “Not a lot of guys can do what he does. He’s the perfect guy for his character, the way he goes about it every day, always consistent, always cool. He’s always going to give you the same effort, the same work ethic and it’s great to have a veteran you can watch and see this is what it looks like.”
Then, turning to Udoh, a few locker spots away, Mitchell said loudly, “You’re the greatest defensive player in the world, is that what I heard?” to which Udoh, quickly replied with a smile, “I’m one of the best.”
As for Favors, he shrugged off his big night, perhaps because he’s had so many during his nine-year career in Utah.
“I’m always ready, just waiting my turn and it felt good just to come out, play hard and get a win,” he said. “When Rudy went out, I saw it as an opportunity for myself to be aggressive and take advantage of the opportunity and I did and we got a win. Hopefully we can keep that going for the rest of the season.”2 comments on this story
Besides Favors and Udoh, others who had big nights for the Jazz were Joe Ingles, who scored 18 points, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, Ricky Rubio, who had 13 points and six assists and Dante Exum, who had 15 points and five assists off the bench.
After improving to 4-6 at home this season and 13-13 overall, the Jazz head out on the road again for games at San Antonio Sunday and Oklahoma City Monday. Utah just beat the Spurs by 34 points on Tuesday night and will be facing the Thunder for the first time this season after eliminating OKC from the playoffs last spring.