Sacramento, Calif. • Derrick Favors is quiet by nature. He’s never one to make a grandiose statement.
But on Wednesday morning, he showed a steely resolve in communicating the Utah Jazz’s dire situation. With ice packs on his knees, having finished a film session with assistant coach Tony Lang, Favors proclaimed a mid-January game against the Sacramento Kings as a must-win. The Jazz had to stop the slide of losing 15 out of 19 games — immediately.
“We just need to win,” Favors said. “We need something good to happen to us.”
Utah’s 120-105 victory at the Golden 1 Center isn’t going to cure all of the Jazz’s ills. They are still 18-26 on the season, and a the previously stated poor run of results has made them way outside of the Western Conference playoff race.
But for one night, the Jazz played 48 minutes of good basketball on both sides of the floor. Defensively, they harassed the Kings into a turnover-plagued evening and made them pay by scoring 23 points off Sacramento’s miscues. They blocked shots at the rim and didn’t let Sacramento get out and find easy offense in transition.
Offensively, Utah moved the basketball with an ease that’s eluded it in past games. The Jazz received offense from several players, and they were able to make 3-pointers.
“We needed this win,” Donovan Mitchell said. “We kept playing, we kept working, and that was a big key for us.”
Mitchell was the catalyst, scoring a game-high 34 points in the type of offensive performance that’s become the norm. His efficiency, 14 of 19 from the field, stood out. He woke a quiet crowd in the third quarter with a tomahawk dunk over Zach Randolph, and generally did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
As good as Mitchell was, Rodney Hood finding his shot could be even more important. Hood came off the bench to score 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field and hit four 3-pointers. For fun, he added eight rebounds and a pair of assists. Favors had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Joe Ingles had 14 points one game after not scoring in Monday night’s loss to Indiana.
“We played with urgency,” Hood said. “We’ve been playing hard, but we played with that urgency, just locking in every single play. We got stops and we didn’t let them go on any big runs. It was a great effort by us and we talked really well tonight, which is something we also haven’t been doing.”
The Jazz lacked energy at the start, and the Kings were able to open an 18-8 lead as a result. Utah’s body language wasn’t good at that early juncture, as shoulders slumped and heads hung.
But Utah’s bench got it into the game. Hood made shots, Royce O’Neale made an impact on both ends of the floor, and Ekpe Udoh showed again why he’s been such a fantastic defender this season.
Hood’s 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer gave the Jazz a 23-21 lead, and a good second quarter produced a 52-42 halftime advantage. Utah then took over in the third quarter. Consecutive 3s by Ingles and Jonas Jerebko stretched the lead to 58-43, and another 3 by Ingles extended the edge to 67-47.
“We finished the end of the first half well,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s hard to start well if you turn the ball over, and we were able to take care of the ball in the first and the third quarter. That was good.”
From there, the Jazz were able to cruise. There were smiles for the first time in seemingly forever as Snyder was able to clear his bench.
The Jazz know they have plenty of work to do. But Wednesday night served as a moment where they saw things go right for the first time in a while.