The Jazz were not gifted with a gimme game to ease into the new NBA season. Rather, they were put up against the Oklahoma City Thunder and super star Kevin Durant on opening night. The Jazz fell short 101-98 but went back-and-forth with the Thunder and showed fight and promise against one of the best teams in the NBA.
In wake of his new four year, $49 million contract, Derrick Favors and his value has been a topic of debate in recent times. Favors played like he was worth every penny last night. Logging a Tom Thibodeau-esque 43 minutes, Favors’ line was 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
The real glistening stat here is the assists. Favors was making some really good plays and reads. Passes that would make you think Deron Williams threw them. He also shined by catching a few lobs in transition, and grabbing a big rebound in the late minutes over Serge Ibaka and drawing a foul while getting it. Overall, Favors backed up his contract in a game that Jazz fans must be pleased with.
Another impressive aspect coming from last night was Rudy Gobert. As a rookie thrown in against the Thunder in the 1st quarter, Gobert held his own in the paint. Despite doing nothing on offense with only two points, Gobert was a disruptive presence, which is exactly what is expected of him. 7 rebounds, 3 offensive in only 23 minutes is a good showing. Among all the big men, Ibaka was held to eight points and Perkins to four. The Jazz’s domination in and around the post is very encouraging.
Lastly, Alec Burks led the team with 24 points, getting many buckets in his usual ‘Houdini’ fashion. At the end of the game, OKC put Durant on Burks and shut him down, including forcing the young guard to turn it over on a crucial possession in the final minutes. This kind of scoring out of Burks would immensely help this Jazz team. It will be interesting to see if Burks can continue to break out like that.
The obvious concern of the game was Kevin Durant’s 42 points. To a certain extent, allowing this was excusable for the Jazz. First, the Thunder without Russell Westbrook means Durant is going to be taking a ton of shots, which he did at 24. The not-so inexcusable part was Durant’s 24 FT attempts.
Cut the Jazz slack though, with Marvin Williams out as arguably the second best wing defender on the team, the task of defending KD was given to Richard Jefferson, as to keep Gordon Hayward out of foul trouble. Nonetheless, Durant was positively held to 37% from the field.
It must be a huge confidence boost for the Jazz and Ty Corbin to come as close as they did against OKC. After hearing the countless questions about youth and inexperience it felt as though Utah exerted a lot of energy last night to prove their relevance is still there and that they will be competitive.
In the next few days discussion will be had regarding Gordon Hayward’s status as a Jazz man as the deadline for contract extension is tonight. Although Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski says the two sides are’t near a deal yet, if the two come to terms and Hayward feels satisfied it only locks in another piece in what are the building blocks to becoming a championship contender once again.
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