Favors, Kanter lead the way for Jazz

Oct 25 2012 - 11:22pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- It wasn't the regular season -- that won't happen until Halloween night -- but there were moments during Thursday night's preseason finale in which Jazz youngsters Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors looked scary good.

Each scored 21 points and Kanter added 12 rebounds as the Jazz held off the Portland Trail Blazers 97-91 at EnergySolutions Arena.

"I thought Derrick and Enes did a great job of attacking inside," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "These are great experiences for our young guys."

Facing key members of Portland's starting until, Kanter and Favors each played 12 minutes in the fourth quarter. They gained some valuable experience playing in a close game -- neither team ever owned a double-digit lead -- especially in the closing minutes.

"To learn the difference in game situations -- when it's tight --- to understand execution and where to get the ball and what to read, it was a great lesson for us," Corbin said.

Former Jazzman Wesley Matthews led all scorers with 24 points and ex-Weber State point guard Damian Lillard had 12 points and five assists for the Blazers.

Utah center Al Jefferson played 22 minutes and led the starting five with 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

The Jazz played without point guard Mo Williams, normally a starter. Corbin said he wanted to give Williams a little extra rest, so he put backup guard Randy Foye in his place.

The Jazz finished their preseason schedule with a record of 5-3. Their next game is Oct. 31 against the Dallas Mavericks. It'll be their season opener; for Dallas it'll be the second game in as many nights (the Mavs open Oct. 30 on the road vs. the Los Angeles Lakers).

Looking back on the preseason, Corbin said he saw the improvement he wanted.

"From the first day of training camp until now, I think we made some great strides," he said.

In particular, he was looking to see how his players would respond after a poor showing during the first half of Monday's loss to the Blazers in Portland, Ore.

That night they struggled defensively and only kept the game close -- losing 120-114 -- thanks to a strong fourth-quarter effort on offense.

Thursday's game was much more to his liking, Corbin said. And the steady improvement made him hopeful for the upcoming season.

"The eight games we had, with the exception of the game in Portland, I thought we grew," he said. "We continued to make steps every game."

And speaking of making big strides, it seems no Jazz player showed more improvement than Kanter, who led the team in preseason scoring.

He went into Thursday's finale averaging 12 points and nine boards per contest.

A year ago the Jazz weren't sure what they really had in the 19-year-old rookie they drafted with the No. 3 overall pick in 2011. Considering there's a big difference between preseason and regular season game, they're still not completely sure. But he appears poised to make a strong sophomore leap.

"He's playing with more of a purpose, his moves are quicker," teammate Gordon Hayward said. "He's passing out of double teams and he's also more confident in his shot. He's able to step out and shoot that little 15-footer he has. There's definitely been a big jump."

Kanter played 26 minutes on Thursday, hitting 8-for-13 from the field. He scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in the fourth quarter alone.

Favors scored 11 in the final quarter, hitting 4-of-5 from the field.

"Today was a great game," Kanter said. "Everyone was fighting and put their focus in 100 percent. We played really well. We need to keep it up like that."

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