SALT LAKE CITY — One of the weaknesses in Derrick Favors’ game has been his free-throw shooting, which was a mediocre 62.5 percent during his first two years in the NBA. It's been even lower early this season. Because of his poor percentage at the line, Favors has often been left off the floor at the end of games in case he got fouled.
But that wasn’t the case Monday night when Favors played the entire fourth quarter of Utah’s 105-103 victory over Denver and hit three key free throws in the final minute for the Jazz.
Favors sank two free throws with 41 seconds left and the score tied 102-102, then hit 1 of 2 with 4.3 seconds left for the Jazz's final points of the night.
“He’s really been working at it and I’m happy to see him make them,’’ said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. “He missed that last one, but the first one was big. He’s working hard to get better and it’s showing in his game. He’ll continue to get batter because he works hard.’’
For the night, Favors was 7 of 9 from the free-throw line, giving him 20 of 25 — 80 percent — over the last six games. He was upset about the last one — it went in and out — but said his hard work is paying off.
“I’ve been working on free throws, working on technique, form, follow through —everything,’’ he said. “I’m coming in the gym and working and staying after practice with the coaches.’’
Favors said he didn’t feel any pressure on his free throws and welcomed the chance to go to the line with the game on the line.
“No, I don’t feel any pressure,’’ he said. “I look for those moments personally, because I work so hard and I want to be in, in the last moments of the game.’’
Favors came up with the biggest rebound of the game, outmuscling Kenneth Faried for an offensive rebound and getting fouled with 41 seconds left.
He calmly sank both free throws to put the Jazz up 104-102. Then after a missed 3-pointer by Andre Miller with 4.3 seconds left, Favors grabbed the rebound and was fouled again.
After sinking the first, the second one bounded out — much to Favors’ chagrin.
“I was (mad) when I missed that last one,’’ he said. “That was supposed to go in.’’
Luckily it didn’t matter as the Nuggets couldn’t even get a shot off in the final 3.6 seconds.
Besides his foul shooting, Corbin was pleased with Favors’ overall play as he finished with a season-high 19 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
“He’s just all over the floor, man — that’s just who he is,’’ Corbin said. “We needed help on the boards getting rebounds and I thought he did a good job being big inside and fought inside for loose balls. He had a couple of really big rebounds there at the end.’’
Not only were Favors’ free throws big, but the Jazz may have won the game at the foul line, sinking 25 of 34 compared to 18 of 32 for the Nuggets. With 4:03 left, Denver missed three straight after a technical foul on Corbin and two on a shooting foul and then Faried missed 1 of 2 with 27 seconds left.
“There was a stretch there where we missed 4 out of 5 free throw and that is tough to overcome in a game like this,’’ said Denver coach George Karl.