This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As Derrick Favors continues to rehab a bone contusion on his ailing knee, there are certain aspects of his skill set the Jazz simply have to do without.
They continue to miss his post-up ability. When healthy, Favors serves as a second rim protector with Rudy Gobert, creating a lethal frontcourt defensively. His ability to slide over to center from power forward to center when Gobert is off the floor is a luxury not many teams have.
At the same time, missing Favors for the last two weeks hasn't been the knockout blow to the Jazz some feared it might be. Boris Diaw and Trey Lyles have seen to that. They are very different players. They don't present the physical presence that Favors does. But their skill on the perimeter and shooting have given the Jazz a different look, one that has helped Utah win four consecutive games, as it prepares for Thursday's meeting with the Miami Heat at Vivint SmartHome Arena.
"There are things Derrick does that nobody else can do, as far as his rim protection and his defense," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "But those two have helped ease Derrick's absence. All three are different, and that's unique. Boris can give us his passing, and Trey can give us the 3-point shooting. They are both playmakers. They don't need to be Derrick; they just need to be who they are."
This development is significant. In the past, the Jazz have been significantly worse without one of their star players. Without Gordon Hayward, Utah lost two of its first three games. Without George Hill, the Jazz went on a four game losing streak.
But Lyles and Diaw, in tandem, have provided Utah with a relatively soft landing sans Favors. They've performed like a tag-team in his absence, taking turns in various games, giving the Jazz a jolt with their play. Lyles in his second season out of Kentucky is finally finding a bit of consistency, following a rough start to his sophomore campaign.
He has scored 13 points in three consecutive games, tying his longest double-figure scoring streak of the season. He finally looks more comfortable shooting from the perimeter. He's also going to the basket, mixing up his drives off the dribble with his spot-up shooting.
Lyles had a signature play in Monday's win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, posting up Ricky Rubio, spinning off the point guard and unleashing a hard dunk at the rim. He's becoming the scoring option off the bench the Jazz thought he would be when the season started.
"I had to do some other things, because my jumper hasn't been falling as much lately," Lyles said. "I knew I had to start getting to the basket, and the free-throw line, instead of being all catch-and-shoot. Me and Boris, we don't want to replace Derrick. We just want to fill the void of not having him here, and try to offer what he brings, but in our own kind of way."
While Lyles has improved significantly in recent weeks, so has Diaw, who battled a leg injury in the infancy of the regular season, sat out an extended period, and now looks like the the player that helped the San Antonio Spurs win a championship.
He has been the consistent starter with Favors out, because Snyder likes Lyles' scoring in the second unit. And also because Diaw may well be the best passer the Jazz have. His season numbers are modest: 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. But he moves the ball well within Snyder's offense. The Jazz have also taken advantage of Diaw's ability to pass out of the post, freeing up Hayward, Hill and Rodney Hood to move without the ball.
"I think that was the point for the team over the summer," Diaw said. "We wanted to be a deep team, for times like this, when you have an injury and we need someone else to come in and play. There's always going to be stuff you don't plan on. It's not about replacing Derrick at all. I think all three of us are different players, and that helps."
Favors has missed seven consecutive games with the bone contusion. He still has no timetable for his return. But his agent, Wallace Prather, says he's progressing and that he is now experiencing "very limited pain".
Two-headed power forward
• Boris Diaw scored a season-high 11 points last week in a win over the Denver Nuggets
• Trey Lyles has reached double-figures in three consecutive games
• Lyles is a combined 11-16 from the field over his last two games
• Diaw played in his 1,000th career game on Tuesday
Jazz vs. Heat
At Vivint SmartHome Arena
Tipoff • Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where • Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City
TV - ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Miami 5-12; Utah 11-8
Season series • Jazz, 1-0
Last Meeting • Jazz 102-91 (November 12)
About the Heat • Miami was without point guard Goran Dragic in the first meeting between the two teams. Dragic had a sprained ankle. He is expected to play on Thursday. … The Heat are expected to be without starters Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow, both of whom are injured. … Dragic had 27 points and 17 assists in Miami's loss to Boston on Monday. He is the first Heat player since LeBron James in 2013 to record at least 25 points and 15 assists in a game. … The Heat will be playing the second game of a back-to-back on Thursday. They played at Denver Wednesday .
About the Jazz • Utah is riding a season-high tying four game win streak. … The Jazz are 5-0 when George Hill and Gordon Hayward are both in the starting lineup. … Rodney Hood suffered a hamstring strain against Houston. His status is questionable for Thursday. ... Utah's defense ranks third overall in the NBA. … Hayward scored a game-high 25 points against the Heat in Utah's earlier win over Miami. … According to ESPN.com, the Jazz are outscoring opponents by a robust 27.2 points per 100 possessions when Hayward, Hill and Rudy Gobert are on the floor