The Jazz’s final preseason game against Portland on Thursday night was billed as a homecoming for Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard.
Instead, it provided a glimpse into Utah’s future.
Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter scored 21 points each and combined for 18 rebounds to lead the Jazz to a 97-91 victory at EnergySolutions Arena.
Lillard, the Weber State product who was the No. 6 pick in last summer’s draft, played decently. He finished with 12 points and five assists in 38 minutes.
Favors and Kanter dominated this game, however.
In the fourth quarter alone — going head-to-head against Portland veterans LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson — they scored 21 of the Jazz’s 26 points.
In a group that also included veteran point guard Jamaal Tinsley, Alec Burks and DeMarre Carroll, Favors and Kanter helped the Jazz open an 85-78 lead with 6:22 remaing.
From there, Utah held on and improved its final preseason record to 5-3.
“The group that finished the game for us did a great job of understanding what it takes to [win] a ball game,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “… For the most part, I thought they controlled the tempo and got the ball where we wanted.”
Asked about the play of Favors and Kanter, Corbin couldn’t help but smile.
“Derrick and Enes did a great job of attacking the basket,” he said. “We wanted them to get the experience of finishing a ball game … against a group that is on the floor for [Portland] a lot.”
Kanter, who is 20 years old, has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the Jazz’s exhibition season.
Favors, who is 21, averaged only 7.5 points on 40 percent shooting in Utah’s first seven preseason games. But he broke out against the Trail Blazers and made eight of his 13 field goals after an 0-for-3 start.
“He’s shown great growth from the beginning of training camp until now,” Corbin said, “and he transferred it into the game tonight.
“All the guys are a little bit beat up, when you go through two-a-days. … It takes awhile for your body to get back into NBA game shape. I think he showed tonight a lot of great improvement because his legs were back.”
Favors had 11 points and two rebounds in the fourth quarter. He went inside for a basket that gave Utah an 83-78 lead — its biggest to that point in the game. His reverse layup with 4:36 left made it 89-82.
“I just wanted to see some shots go in,” Favors said. “The [other] preseason games, my shots were going in-and-out. I couldn’t get into a rhythm. So I just wanted to see shots go in.”
Favors seemed unimpressed by the fact he played well against what will likely be Portland’s starting frontcourt during the regular season.
“It’s just basketball,” he said. “No matter — starters or bench players. It’s just basketball. You go out there and play hard.”
Kanter scored 11 points, grabbed five rebounds and went 5 for 7 from the floor in the fourth quarter against Hickson. When Portland trimmed Utah’s eight-point lead to 93-91 with 1:48 remaining, Kanter grabbed Burks’ missed jumper and dunked the rebound to stop the Blazers’ momentum.
Said Corbin: “These are great experiences for our young guys — when it’s tight — to understand where to get the ball, what to read and how to go at the basket.”
Portland coach Terry Stotts also credited Favors and Kanter for doing “… a great job. They made jump shots. They rebounded the ball. They had putbacks.”
The Jazz open the regular season Wednesday night against Dallas.
“There is still a lot of room for growth,” Corbin said. “But I think we’re in a pretty good place right now.”
Jazz 97, Trail Blazers 91
R Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter score 21 points each as the Jazz beat Portland.
• Utah (5-3) finishes at least .500 in the preseason for the seventh consecutive year.
• Al Jefferson scores 15 points for the Jazz, including 11 in the third quarter.