The 6th Best Player Performance of 2017-18

September 19th, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

Derrick Favors, a traditional power forward, grabs one of his eight offensive rebounds over Paul George (13) and Carmelo Anthony, high profile wings asked to play as stretch fours in recent years. Favors’s dominance on the glass helped the Utah Jazz to a win in Game 2 of their First Round Playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as an eventual series win. (Scott G Winterton / Deseret News)

Leading up to start of the 2018-19 Utah Jazz season, Salt City Hoops is counting down the ten best player performances from last season. See games that just missed the top ten here and also check out #10, #9, #8, and #7 from previous weeks!

#6: Derrick Favors, April 18th, 2018

Jazz 102, Suns 95 in Oklahoma City, Game 2 of the NBA Playoff’s First Round

20 points, 16 rebounds (8 offensive), 3 assists, 1 steal, 57% field goals, 2 of 3 from three, 2 of 4 free throws. [18.9 PIE, 21.9 GmSc]1

Context

Down one game to none against a favored Thunder team that enjoyed home court, well-regarded statistical website FiveThirtyEight gave the Jazz only a 34 percent chance of winning the series. A loss in Game 2 would have sent those odds tumbling down beneath 20 percent.

Worse, fears about Utah’s two-big starting lineup appeared to have materialized against the Thunder. Carmelo Anthony, relegated to a third (or lower) offensive option as a stretch four, had clashed with the role all season only to find a perfect fit in Game 1, scoring 15 points on 13 shots while, more importantly, contributing in all the less glamorous areas of the game: seven rebounds, two assists, and most impressively, three steals and two blocks. Simultaneously, Favors was near invisible with seven points and five rebounds, and the team was outscored by a team-worst 12 points in his 30 minutes of play.

Utah needed to win this game, and many thought their best chance to do so meant finally pivoting away from Favors to a more conventional stretch four. 

Why It Makes the List

No player on Utah’s roster has faced such prolonged, intense skepticism about their value to the franchise as Derrick Favors. Between years of injury problems and a seismic shift away from traditional power forwards throughout the NBA, there were times when both Favors’ value to the team and future in Salt Lake City appeared all but spent.

An injury to Rudy Gobert in the First Round of the 2016-17 Playoffs provided room for Favors to become one of several2 series saviors, which renewed some of the lost enthusiasm for the George Tech product’s game. But there was no denying that Favors was swimming upstream against a hard current in Utah, especially after being thoroughly neutralized by a stretched-out Thunder team in Game 1.

In what may have been the most pivotal game of the Jazz season, and perhaps in Favors’ career, the 6-foot-10 big grabbed the contest, series, and perhaps season by the throat and choked it into submission.

He had nine points and seven rebounds in the first quarter alone, and catalyzed an onslaught the Thunder were completely unprepared for: destruction on the glass.

With Steven Adams, arguably the league’s strongest player, and Russell Westbrook, likely its most maniacal competitor, the Thunder routinely devastated opponents on the glass, particularly in offensive rebounding where the led the league in the regular season. Yet in Game 2, Favors brutalized them at their own game, grabbing six offensive rebounds in the first half alone and finishing with eight on the night.

He physically imposed his will on the Thunder, and his teammates rallied at the effort. When Gobert added 15 rebounds of his own, five on the offensive glass, the long-doubted value of the Jazz size suddenly paid out.

Utah was simply too big and strong for the Thunder to resist. 

Adams wound up in foul trouble trying to fight off multiple Jazz bigs in what would become a major theme of the series. Meanwhile, the ideal stretch version of Carmelo Anthony disappeared never to re-appear. Clearly frustrated by how routinely Favors out-muscled and out-worked him, Anthony transformed into arguably the determining factor in the series, and not in the Thunder’s favor.

From Game 2 on, Favors played nearly 167 minutes in the series — averaging better than 13 points, seven rebounds, and a block a game with an effective field goal rate of 67.5 percent — and Utah outscored Oklahoma City by 77 points in those minutes.

In those same final five games, Anthony played 157 minutes — averaging 11 points and five rebounds3 with an effective field goal rate of .407 percent — and the Jazz outscored the Thunder by 59 in those minutes.

Olympic Melo was supposed to make OKC a superteam; instead with Game 2, Favors changed his own narrative as well as Anthony’s, and put the Jazz on track for a convincing First Round series victory. The forward without a place in a stretch league even hit two threes in the process4.

Take Note

In Game 2 versus the Thunder, Favors became the first player since Tracy McGrady in 2000 to hit a pair of threes while grabbing eight or more offensive rebounds in a playoff game.  

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
Clint Johnson

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