The final regular-season game of Enes Kanter’s rookie year was one of his best.
In a career-high 34 minutes, Kanter finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots in the Jazz’s 96-94 win over Portland.
Coach Tyrone Corbin called Kanter’s performance evidence that the bullish 19-year-old center has improved during his first NBA season.
“I didn’t think, this year, we’d be able to go to him in the post,” Corbin said. “But we can go to him down there.
“He has good moves, and his patience is good. He’s been a really good rebounder for us, too. Very physical.”
Kanter did not play last year at Kentucky because of an eligibility issue, which makes his progress during the lockout-shortened season more impressive.
“He did a great job,” Corbin said. “Training camp was abbreviated, and he was spinning the first part of the season.
“Then he settled down. He learned. He sat and watched. When he got on the floor, he’s done some good things.”
Malone not surprised Jazz made playoffs
The Jazz’s run to a Western Conference playoff berth surprised most people, except Hall of Famer Karl Malone.
In Utah this week to promote a new weekly radio show on 700 AM, Malone said, “I’ve always said the Jazz were one of the most talented teams in the league. I know people [are] excited that they made the playoffs, but they got a talented team. So it don’t surprise me. It was a little shocking that it took the [second-to] last game to do it.”
The Jazz beat the Suns on Tuesday to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
“Here’s the most important part of it — they did it when they had to do it,” he said. “Phoenix needed to win, the Jazz needed to win. And the Jazz won. So this, to me, is awesome.”
Malone believes the eighth-seeded Jazz have a chance to upset No. 1 seeded San Antonio.
“… If they play, they can beat anybody,” he said. “They’ve got that kind of talent.”
Millsap proud of team accomplishment
Paul Millsap did not play against Portland because he was “a little banged up,” Corbin said.
At the morning shootaround, however, Millsap was asked about the Jazz’s playoff berth.
“Great, man, just great,” he said. “I feel like we accomplished something big. … People picked us last in the West, and that was kind of a slap in our face.
“We’ve got some older guys — veteran guys — who can play and we’ve got some younger guys that can play. You put that together, and we make a hell of a team.”
The Tribune’s Scott Pierce contributed to this story.