By bill oram
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Mar 04 2013 11:40PM
Milwaukee • At the end of the night, all Derrick Favors carried on his shoulders was a camouflage backpack.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t tried to load his team on there, too, but denied an opportunity to help his team down the stretch, the third-year big man could only dress quickly and hurry to the team bus. He was one of the first players out of the visitors’ locker room at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and the bus was at least half an hour from leaving for the airport. So, Favors’ only option was to do what he did for the final 17 minutes of the Utah Jazz’s 109-108 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks (30-28).
For the entire fourth quarter and overtime, Favors had one of the best seats in the house to an excruciating game that he previously dominated. After matching a career high with 23 points and adding 15 rebounds through three quarters, Favors watched as a highly effective lineup that included Enes Kanter and Paul Millsap battled back from a 10-point hole at the start of the quarter and lead by three with 9 seconds remaining.
"Enes was playing good so he stayed in," Favors said. "Something you’ve got to deal with."
Following the Jazz’s fourth loss in five games, sitting the red-hot Favors will be the most-studied decision by coach Tyrone Corbin. The loss, in the first of four games on this road trip, trimmed the Jazz’s lead over the Lakers to two games in the battle for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
With Al Jefferson sidelined by a sprained ankle for the second straight game, Favors led the way, scoring 15 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in the first quarter. However, the players he battles for time were effective enough that Corbin couldn’t find a way to get him back in the game. Playing on his own sprain, Millsap (22 points, 14 rebounds) added a double-double, as did Kanter (18 points, 10 rebounds). Three other reserves scored in double figures.
Given the way the rest of Utah’s starters played, the Jazz (32-28) would have been sunk without their bench. For the second time in five games, three Jazz starters were held scoreless after Earl Watson, Randy Foye and Marvin Williams combined to shoot 0-of-15 from the field.
Had the Jazz held on to the three-point lead they held with 9 seconds left in regulation — or had Millsap extended it to four with a free throw he missed — this story likely would have been one of the luxuries the Jazz enjoy: Even on Favors’ best night, they were able to lean on other players down the stretch.
Corbin stuck with the group of Kanter, Millsap, DeMarre Carroll, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks for the final 17 minutes, before subbing in Foye when the Jazz needed a 3 in the final 10 seconds of overtime.
The third-year coach defended his decision to leave Favors on the bench, saying he wanted to stick with the group that had erased the lead.
"They’d been playing well," Corbin said. "This is the NBA, you want to finish games, you’ve got to get a feel for where you are this time of year."
And it almost paid off.
But Brandon Jennings rattled in a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 99. On the Jazz’s final possession, Gordon Hayward cut to the basket and was clobbered by center Larry Sanders, who leads the NBA in blocks. However, no foul was called.
Asked later how much contact there was on the play, Hayward cautiously said, "Obviously not enough for there to be a foul, I guess it was a good defensive play."
In overtime, J.J. Redick scored the Bucks’ first eight points, including two 3-pointers, to put Milwaukee up 107-105. After Utah’s Carroll split free throws with 34.2 seconds remaining, Monta Ellis dribbled out most of the shot clock, before nailing an 18-footer from the top of the key with 14.7 seconds.
"He’s a big shot maker," Corbin said. "He’s used to it. He likes big moments, and he made a couple of great plays in big moments of the game."
Ellis led the Bucks with 34 points, while Jennings added 20 points and 17 rebounds.
The Jazz were able to run four separate inbound plays in the final 14 seconds, but both Foye — who had not played since the 2:48 mark of the third quarter — and Millsap missed 3-pointers before Kanter scored on a putback with 1.6 seconds left.
"We needed this one tonight," Hayward said. "Unfortunately we felt like we gave it away a little bit. It’s tough. Can’t get it back."