SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Tyrone Corbin remembers the scared pup that arrived in Salt Lake City as part of the Deron Williams trade two years ago.
Now the Jazz coach has so much confidence in Derrick Favors he wasn't afraid to unleash him with Utah's playoff hopes on the line.
The 6-foot-10 Favors delivered Sunday night, blocking a shot with 40.9 seconds left to preserve Utah's 97-90 road victory over Golden State. The win, coupled with the Lakers' loss to the Clippers, allowed Utah (41-37) to reclaim the Western Conference's final playoff spot.
If the Jazz go 3-1 over their remaining four games (Oklahoma City on Tuesday, Minnesota home/away, then Memphis), the Lakers (40-37) would have to win their last five because Utah owns the tiebreaker.
Favors, all grown up, looks forward to that crunch-time pressure.
Actually, Favors said Monday, "There's no pressure. We know what we got to do, win these games."
It's that confidence that comes from feeling at home and wanted — a stark contrast to the power forward Corbin first saw in a Jazz uniform.
"He was a scared 19-year-old man that was surprised he got traded and didn't know what to think of it, what to think of us, or where to go next," Corbin said of Favors after the February 2011 deal with the New Jersey Nets, who eight months earlier had made the Georgia Tech standout the No. 3 overall pick of the 2010 draft. "I think he's just relaxed and comfortable now because he feels wanted here and has a role in how good we do or how bad we do."
Many wondered how Utah would do after losing one of its big men, 6-11 Enes Kanter, to a dislocated left shoulder against Phoenix on March 27.
The 21-year-old Favors picked up the minutes and the slack. In the last five games he is averaging 27 minutes, 12.2 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while shooting 24 of 42 (59.5 percent) from the field.
Sunday night he played nearly 30 minutes, finishing with 12 points, a team-high 13 rebounds and three blocks — none bigger than the one as Draymond Green drove strong to the rim with Utah leading 93-90.
Five seconds earlier, Corbin had subbed in Favors for starting center Al Jefferson.
"When coach subbed me out and put him back in, I couldn't be no happier than if he were putting me in the game," Jefferson said. "I feel like that was the right move, and he made a big defensive stop there. Derrick Favors really is the key reason why our defense is great, especially in the key, in the crunch time of the game."
Guard Randy Foye said Favors controlled the game defensively, helping out on screens and pick-and-rolls while altering shots. "He played his butt off and he really is the MVP of that game," Foye said afterward.
"His athleticism is huge for us, but then (so is) his understanding of defense and how to be in position and the effort and second effort you have to have to make plays, especially to close ball games," Corbin added.