It’s been three years. I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I’m going to do, so I would like to see more minutes on the court together. —Enes Kanter
SAN ANTONIO — Enes Kanter just about sent EnergySolutions Arena into a frenzy and even surprised himself when he burst toward the basket, leaped high and fiercely jammed in a dunk during Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“That was a good shot,” he admitted about the early slam. “I didn’t know where that (came) from.”
Regardless of its origin, the Jazz sure liked the result.
Another thing they mostly liked was the pairing of Kanter and fellow young big Derrick Favors.
Those two helped the Jazz get off to a quick start against the red-hot Clippers as Utah went up by eight before Favors left with two fouls 7:34 into the first quarter.
The Jazz eventually succumbed to the deep and talented Clippers, 96-87, but Utah scored five more points than Los Angeles during the 24 minutes and 40 seconds in which Favors and Kanter were in the lineup together.
Both had impressive, Lob City-worthy dunks, played well against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the defensive end, and padded the box score with stats. Kanter had a season-high 15 rebounds with 11 points, and Favors scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting with nine boards.
Griffin came away impressed with the duo.
“They are good. They are physical guys. They can both finish,” Griffin said. “They can both provide what they need inside.”
Depending on how long injured Marvin Williams is out with his lower back strain, it’s likely the Jazz will continue to put them on the court together.
Williams traveled with the Jazz and will be a game-time decision tonight against the Spurs at AT&T Center.
“We’ll see where Marvin is, see how much he can get back,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We’ve been playing the two big guys some and we’ll continue it.”
While Kanter and Favors had played together some this season, it hasn’t been nearly as much as most would have guessed. They were split up after Williams returned from his Achilles rehab and was inserted into the starting lineup early in the season to space the floor in his stretch-four role.
Of the Jazz’s 66 games, they’ve only played on the court simultaneously in 40 outings for an average of 13.2 minutes. Their plus/minus rating together is minus-15.4.
But Friday night looked to be a step in the right direction. The two spaced the floor nicely together and would have been even more effective if Kanter had hit some mid-range shots on a 5-for-17 shooting night.
“The way they’re learning how to not get in each other's way so much, (especially) early, I thought was really good,” Corbin said.
“I say every time I like playing with him on the court. I feel comfortable,” Kanter said. “It’s been three years. I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I’m going to do, so I would like to see more minutes on the court together.”
Kanter smiled when asked about logging a season-high 42 minutes in Friday’s loss.
“You know what?” he said. “Pretty tired.”
And not just because of the energy the 21-year-old expended making that highlight dunk in the first quarter.
Kanter and Favors almost helped the Jazz pull off an upset win over San Antonio in the teams' last meeting. Kanter had a career-high 25 points and Favors had a 19-point, 12-rebound double-double in the 109-105 loss.
Griffin expects more performances like that as they learn how to play together and get more seasoning. He sees a bright future ahead for the Jazz if they can keep Kanter, up for a contract extension this offseason, and Favors, inked through 2018, together in the lineup.
“They are still young, so they are still going to get better,” the Clippers star said. “The sky is the limit for those guys.”