SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gobert only played 24 minutes in Friday's 106-100 Utah Jazz win over the Los Angeles Clippers due to foul trouble.
If he had played that few of minutes last season, there would have likely been no talk of a win. In fact, the Jazz likely would have lost in convincing fashion. Gobert had one of the largest on/off swings in the entire league during the 2019-20 season, with the Jazz 12.6 points per 100 possession better with him on the court. That's partially due to how good he is — and partially due to who was backing him up.
When he wasn't playing, the Jazz were a mediocre team at best. So how did the Jazz then end up beating the Clippers, one of the favorites in the West, with their All-Star center saddled with foul trouble?
If you were still wondering why the Jazz brought back Derrick Favors, you should have got your answer on Friday.
Favors scored 14 points and 11 rebounds Friday as he filled-in for Gobert.
With 8:42 left in the third quarter and the Jazz up by 17, Gobert picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench. Favors went on to score 10 of his 14 points in the quarter as the Jazz even built on their lead during the time Gobert sat in the third (albeit only by two, but after last season, that is sweet music to Utah's ears).
Those minutes were crucial — as were the ones in the first half when Gobert also was forced to sit due to early fouls. That shows the importance of Favors — and his willingness to accept the role in Utah. There could be nights he gets 24 minutes, like on Friday, and some he sees just over 10.
He's happy with anything.
"I know what they need me to do and what I need to do," Favors said.
It just changes from night to night.
In the fourth quarter, as the Clippers were making a huge run to get back into the game, Favors went up for a two-handed dunk. He was rejected at the rim, sending the ball to the ground.
Favors jumped onto the court after it, corralling the rebound and tipping out to Donovan Mitchell, who drove in for a layup.
"I think it's the little things that are going to help us win," Mitchell said of the play.
And that little thing highlights Favors can even bring things that Gobert can't. Favors is one of the better offensive rebounders in the game — he grabbed 14% of opponents' misses last season in New Orleans — and that was something the Jazz needed on Friday late in the game.
"As much as anything, his presence down low and his ability to get rebounds in a crowd," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "It's not easy to rebound against that team."