SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz held a two-hour practice on Friday, preparing for Saturday's Game 3 in Utah. Here's what's going on around the team.
Vivint Arena getting ready
The Vivint Arena staff are preparing for all of the playoff festivities of the Jazz's first playoff game this season.
First, the team is distributing 18,306 shirts to the fans — color coordinated to match the yellow, orange, and red Nike city jerseys the Jazz will be wearing on Saturday night.
The team will also hold a fan fest starting two hours before the game's 8 p.m. MT tip. A pop-up team store will be set up outside of the arena, giving fans more room to shop for Jazz gear ahead of Game 3. The fan fest will also feature a beer garden, face painters, balloon artists, and sign makers, while a DJ will provide music to the plaza.
The Jazz pregame, halftime, and postgame set will move outdoors to the plaza, where fans can find themselves on camera while hosts Alema Harrington and Thurl Bailey break down the game.
Sneaker artist Kickstradomis, who has created customized shoes for Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert, among other NBA stars, will be creating a pair of Jazz-themed kicks the team will give away to a lucky fan.
And finally, a new 101-foot by 65-foot banner will be unveiled before the game, covering three sections along the side of the lower bowl court before game one.
For those who can't make it to Vivint Arena, the game will be televised on ESPN and AT&T SportsNet.
Derrick Favors speaks
Derrick Favors played a huge role in the Jazz winning Game 2 in Oklahoma City. In the first half, his offensive rebounding kept multiple Jazz possessions alive despite missed shots. Eventually, he finished with eight offensive boards and the Jazz led the Thunder in second-chance points, 20-9.
During the regular season, the Thunder were the league's best offensive-rebounding team, averaging 12.5 per contest. But Favors turned that on its head, along with some pretty good defensive rebounding from himself and teammate Rudy Gobert. The two combined for 31 rebounds in total, including 13 offensive ones.
"His length and his strength allow him to get his hands on balls and he’s got such good hands even when he keeps the ball alive, usually something good happens," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder noted.
Another Favors factor scared the Thunder: the threat of Favors rolling down the paint. Favors is one of the best bigs in the league at catching the ball at the free-throw line, and the Thunder were aggressively stopping those rolls with extra bodies. That meant Joe Ingles got shots like this:
"I’m a good pick-and-roll player," Favors said. "I think they had to adjust to it, and then we adjusted to what they were doing. "Me and Rudy both, we put pressure on the rim when we’re rolling to the paint, and guys have to come over and help. That frees up the corners for our perimeter guys to take shots."
Playing as a team
One of the things that stood out to nearly everyone on Sunday night was the Jazz's postgame podium performance. Usually, the NBA and team public relation staffs bring only a couple of players to the podium after having a great playoff game. In fact, there were only three chairs and three microphones.
The Jazz brought four. Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio also brought his nephew to the stage. And not only was the majority of the starting lineup up in the lights, the players clearly had a camaraderie that NBA players usually lack in those scenarios, even after a win.
My favorite moment came when Rubio was asked a question in Spanish, and Donovan Mitchell tried to understand what the reporter and Rubio were saying, using only his high-school Spanish experience. You can even see him mouth the English translations to the Spanish words he knows.
"I was trying to figure out what he was saying," Mitchell said. "I took like Spanish 5 in high school, and I haven’t taken it since. I’ve been trying to figure it out. I got a little bit of what he was saying, but not too much."
This group is pretty unique in that way; they clearly all enjoy spending time with one another. Mitchell is the leader in that, undoubtedly. Despite his rookie status, he's already the glue of the team.
"Everybody’s got their own style and identity. The way we need to play to be good is to use each other and to help each other," Snyder noted. "We’ve said the strength of the team is the team, and I believe they believe that."
Donovan Mitchell's status
Mitchell was officially listed as probable for Saturday's Game 3. Given that he played on Wednesday with more proximity to the injury and was also phenomenal, there's no real doubt he'll play on Saturday, barring a catastrophic setback.
Igor Kokoskov interviewing with Phoenix
Jazz lead assistant coach Igor Kokoskov will be interviewed for the role of Phoenix Suns head coach, according to John Gambadoro, an Arizona sports radio talk host. International magazine Sportando corroborated the report and added that Kokoskov will interview for the position next week.
Kokoskov, who has sat alongside Snyder for the last three seasons, has played a large role in the development of the Jazz's guard core, especially Ricky Rubio. Kokoskov also plays a big role in drawing up the Jazz's team system on the court.
He also led the Slovenian National Team to a Eurobasket win last summer, alongside Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic and future top pick Luka Doncic. The Suns have the highest odds of winning the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft after finishing with 21 wins this season.