After losing to the Magic on Thursday night the Jazz needed a win to get back to .500. That’s been about their mark this season, as they’ve yet to win more than two games in a row. Quin Snyder is still adjusting rotations after losing Rudy Gobert. Thursday night’s game was proof that the Frenchman is a crucial part of the Jazz’ identity. Saturday night wouldn’t be an easy test for the depleted Jazz frontcourt.
Indiana is exceeding expectations, coming into the game at 12-6. The return of all-star forward Paul George has been a big reason why Indiana is finding themselves back in the conversation in the East. He’s averaging 26.5 points a game, along with 8.2 rebounds. Paul George had a career-night on Saturday, scoring 48, but it was the Jazz who came away with the victory.
The Jazz got off to a good start defensively, holding Indiana to just 19 points in the first quarter despite 12 from George. The Jazz had a balanced attack with Hayward and Trey Burke leading the team in scoring with 5 points each to end the first. The score after one was 27-19 for the Jazz. Indiana picked up the pace in the second. Paul George stayed hot, but the Jazz were able to score as well. As the half came to a close the Pacers cut the Jazz’ lead to 5, scoring 33 points in the second frame. Going into halftime it was 52-57 in favor of the Jazz.
Raul Neto came out hot for the Jazz to start the second half. He had an unbelievable, circus and-one, along with a three to get the Jazz going. Utah was rolling early in the third but Paul George went off and the Pacers closed the gap. Late in the fourth quarter the Pacers were up 6. You could feel the cold breeze start flowing into the arena as fans gave up hope and headed to their cars. But Derrick Favors took over. Down three with 16 seconds left in the game Alec Burks drove the lane and dished it to an open Favors who hit the layup and got fouled. Derrick made the free throw to tie it up. The Jazz closed out regulation and forced the Pacers to overtime. Paul George hit a three right out the gates in overtime but the Jazz stayed with them. Late in the overtime period Favors came up big again, throwing down a dunk to put the Jazz ahead. Indiana had a chance to tie it with a three at the end but they came up short. The final score was 122-119 for the Jazz.
This win for the Jazz is a huge step without Rudy Gobert. His absence was felt on defense. But Derrick Favors proved that he has the offensive ability to make up for it. He scored 35 points, a career high, and also hauled in 13 rebounds. This was a rare glimpse of a side of Favors Jazz fans would like to see more often. He made play after play, and looked hungry for the ball. This kept with a refreshing trend we’ve seen this year. Despite the ups and downs, the passion that Hayward and Favors have shown in tight games has been visible. The Jazz stars have been more vocal on the court than we’ve been used to. This is exactly what has been needed from them the last few years.
We’ve seen the Jazz come up with big wins this season already, but they’ll have to continue their momentum this time. They’ll be in Sacramento on Tuesday night, and then back in Salt Lake for a matchup with Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks on Wednesday. After that it’s a home and home against the division-leading Oklahoma City Thunder.
Derrick Favors – 35 points, 13 rebounds: