SALT LAKE CITY — It was a standard playoff press conference, several players lined up at a table, a microphone in front of each. Their relief was palpable after the Jazz’s Game 4 win over Houston on Monday.
You could practically hear “Good Vibrations” playing in the background.
Derrick Favors, Donovan Mitchell, Jae Crowder and Rudy Gobert addressed all the salient points: aggressiveness, defense, bench play, execution, Mitchell’s resurgence, and everything else except global warming.
“Game 5, we’re gonna be ready,” Gobert said.
The Jazz center doesn’t say these things lightly. He, above all players, is most likely to deliver the unvarnished truth. When he says they’ll be ready, Wednesday at the Toyota Center, well, take note. That’s because he was ready Monday, despite playing only 24 minutes and being pulled from the late lineup in favor of Favors. Some players would have pouted. Not Gobert. He takes the game personally. Not so with coach Quin Snyder’s decisions. Gobert’s response was that watching Favors deliver 12 points and 11 rebounds was must-see TV.
Even if you’re sitting on the sideline.
Gobert was pulled with 4:26 left in the game for Favors, but didn’t complain. Favors produced two offensive rebounds, a dunk, another offensive rebound, a tip-in and a defensive rebound down the stretch.
Asked about the substitution, Gobert said, “As a competitor, I was surprised at first, but we all know Derrick Favors can play. Derrick is a great player and to me, he’s a starter; he’d be starting for 80 percent of NBA teams, so when he’s on the floor and I’m on the bench, of course I want to be out there. But he has a good game, the team is winning, that’s the most important thing ... It’s a long series and the deepest teams are the best teams in the playoffs.”
After that, Mitchell took over the mic to praise Gobert.
“Can I say that not a lot of All-Star-quality centers would say that,” Mitchell said.
So much for locker room jealousy.
These guys are harmonizing like the Beach Boys.
Thus, the Jazz roll into Game 5 feeling like they’re not really down 3-1. While no team has overcome a 3-0 deficit, 11 have come back from 3-1.That’s still a short list, considering there have been 529 best-of-seven playoff series in league history.
Still, the Jazz weren’t about to bow out without protest.
“No, not at all. That’s not who we are,” Mitchell said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall plenty of times in the past two years we’ve been together as a team. I think this is familiar ground with us.
“I think the biggest thing for us is to take what we did (Monday) and multiply it. Because I think we can play even better.”
Curiously, the team that many consider the greatest aggregation of talent in league history has been involved in the last two 3-1 turnarounds. In 2016, Golden State overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals, only to lose after leading Cleveland by the same margin.1 comment on this story
Good as the Jazz looked Monday, chummy as they all were, it’s doubtful they will make playoff history. That would more likely be done by a team with championship personnel. So far the Jazz have been outscored by 52 points in the two games in Houston.
“Anything can happen,” Mitchell said.
Houston’s talent is undeniable, but so was the Jazz’s resolve in the last game. They easily could have mailed home their game on Monday.
“I’m not trying to go home,” Mitchell said after Game 4. “I’m not trying to watch the rest of these games from the couch.”
In a weird way, that’s kind of what Gobert was doing late in Monday’s game.
Yet under certain circumstances, even that was a pleasure.