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At first, Derrick Favors contemplated whether or not he wanted to spot up in the corner and shoot a 3-pointer.
Then, he decided to revert to the Derrick Favors of old.
He cut to the baseline and took a bounce pass from Gordon Hayward. He saw Serge Ibaka one of the best interior defenders in the NBA impeding his path and rose off the floor. The Vivint Smart Home Arena crowd went nuts when Favors dunked the ball and drew the foul.
Favors then made the free throw, completing a three-point play that gave the Jazz the lead late in the fourth quarter on the way to beating the Orlando Magic 114-107 on Saturday night.
"It's been a process for me, especially with the injury," Favors said. "I had gotten to a point where I lost explosiveness, but it's definitely starting to come back."
Favors' return from missing significant time with a bone bruise in his knee has been frustrating, in that he's had a difficult time regaining everything he could do before the injury.
There are times when he would go up for a dunk, and his normal lift off the floor hasn't been there. There are normally easy finishes around the basket that he's missed, shots that he normally blocks that he couldn't get to.
That's why his dunk and foul over Ibaka was a momentous occasion for him and the Jazz. Once the Jazz led 103-102 with 2:43 remaining in a game in which they trailed the majority of the time, it would not relinquish the lead the rest of the game.
For Favors, the play signaled a return to his old self. When 100 percent, Favors' athleticism around the rim makes him a difficult matchup for most opponents around the league. And that process to return fully has been a long and arduous journey for him and the Jazz.
"I think we're going to see that with a few of our guys," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "We're going to see the juice and the bounce and energy ebb and flow a little bit. From a physical standpoint, there's a reality there. That's part of the reason Derrick hasn't been playing 35 minutes, he's been playing 27-28."
Favors had arguably his best game since returning, scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds. He shot 7 of 12 from the field and made all three of his foul shots. He also played almost 32 minutes, and was a part of Utah's closing lineup for one of the first times since his return from the injury.
"That felt good," Favors said. "I want to be out there when it matters, I'm a competitor. It just felt good to go out there and play well."
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