SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Derrick Favors had been benched at power forward earlier in the day by Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin.
But with starting center Al Jefferson scratched less than an hour before Friday night's game against Philadelphia because of an inflamed right ankle, Favors needed to step up.
In his first career start at center, the second-year pro scored a career-high 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Utah to a 102-99 victory over the 76ers.
``He gave us a huge lift,' Corbin said of the 6-foot-10 Favors. ``We know he can score some points for us, but he had some huge rebounds.'
Favors was even a factor in what would have been a game-tying shot by Lou Williams with 5.9 seconds left, forcing Williams to shoot his layup a little higher. It didn't fall, and Williams missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer that would have forced overtime, sending Jazz fans jumping for joy as the team avoided its first 0-3 start in 32 years.
``We needed a win, first of all,' Corbin said of a Jazz team that had lost by 25 to the Lakers on Tuesday and by 17 the next night at Denver.
It didn't look good after the team had to scratch Jefferson. He was averaging 11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds and had started every game since being acquired in a trade with Minnesota before last season. He also had scored 30 in an overtime win against the Sixers last season.
And it didn't look good when the Jazz fell behind by 13 points in the second quarter.
Jazz point guard Devin Harris, who played only 4 minutes in the first quarter, started Utah's comeback. He began attacking more and scored 13 in the quarter, including 6 of 6 free throws.
``They want me to push the ball and it's hard to do when you take the ball out of the net,' Harris said.
But the Jazz started getting stops and rebounds after being outrebounded 15-5 in the first quarter and allowing Philadelphia to shoot 57.9 percent.
``We had pretty good control of the game then the physicality of the game changed,' Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. ``I thought they started knocking us around; some loose balls and stuff. I thought that was the difference.'
The Jazz would finish with a 41-40 rebounding advantage and nine blocks - two each by Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans and one by Favors.
Rookie reserve Enes Kanter also added six rebounds for Utah.
``I came out and played a lot better,' said Favors, who insisted earlier Friday he was unfazed about being sent to the bench after starting the first two games but getting into early foul trouble in both.
``I do whatever (coach) wants me to do.'
Corbin now will have some decisions to make, but Favors will likely get his minutes.
``He can be a monster down there and he's tough to handle when he plays like that,' Hayward said of Favors.
Millsap, who made his first start at power forward this season, added 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Jazz.
Utah has now beaten the 76ers seven straight times at home and in 21 of the last 23 meetings in Salt Lake City.
Jrue Holiday scored a season-high 22 points for the Sixers and Williams added 20 off the bench but couldn't make the final shot when it counted.
Spencer Hawes also missed a tip shot off Williams' missed layup and Millsap grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Harris, who was fouled and sank one of two free throws for the final margin.
Williams knew what he was up against having worked out with Favors all summer.
``He got to a lot of my layups this summer, so this one I wanted to make sure when it counted I got it over him,' Williams said. ``I didn't get the bounce, Spencer didn't get the tip. It happens.'
The Sixers (1-2) also hurt themselves by missing eight free throws, including three late by Andre Iguodala - one that would have been a four-point play and two more that would have given Philadelphia a lead with 2:10 remaining.
Jazz players gave some of the credit to the crowd, which stood behind the home team even though Utah looked headed for another loss early.
``Definitely a fun crowd,' said Harris, who finished with 19 points. ``They gave us effort and energy.'
The Sixers led 29-22 after the first quarter, with Hawes shooting 4 of 4 and the Jazz just 40.9 percent (9 of 22) as a team.
The Jazz led 18-17 with 3:22 left in the first before the Sixers went on a 12-4 run fueled by Hawes. Philadelphia then outscored Utah 8-2 to start the second quarter and bump its lead to 13 points.
A 3-pointer by Harris pulled Utah within 41-34 with 6 minutes left in the half, and Favors' jam off a pass down low from Hayward cut the gap to five.
Josh Howard's pull-up jumper got Utah within 1 with 2:46 left in the half, and the Jazz came up with another defensive stop and took the lead on a pair of Harris free throws.
The schedule only gets tougher from here for the Jazz, with Friday's game the first of six in nine days.
The Sixers finish their season-opening five-game road trip - the longest trip to start a season in franchise history - with visits to Golden State and New Orleans.
Notes: About 25 diehard fans from suburban Olympus High School in Holladay walked nine miles to the game to show their support for the Jazz. At least the weather cooperated with temperatures in the mid-50s. ... The Jazz management team greeted fans upon entrance to a pregame festival on the arena concourse. ... Elton Brand had 12 points for the Sixers, but only 3 in the second half ... Hawes led Philadelphia with 13 rebounds.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved