It was almost a happy homecoming for Brownsburg, Indiana native Gordon Hayward.
The Utah Jazz star swingman poured on 30 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a block against his hometown Indiana Pacers. But despite the big performance, one thing was missing: a victory. The Jazz were outscored 25-17 in the fourth quarter and fell 97-86.
“Not good enough,” Gordon said of his big night. “We didn’t win. That’s pretty unfortunate. You always want to win when you’re at home. It’s tough because I felt like we kind of had this one and we kind of just fell apart late. Maybe that’s tired legs on a back-to-back or whatever. But I think a lot of it was mental mistakes, especially defensively.”
Gordon went home for a fresh new haircut and his favorite Donatos Pizza. He also had his family, along with roughly 50 other guests, in attendance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“Anytime you get to come back (home) and get a chance to have people you grew up with come watch you play is pretty special,” No. 20 said. “It’s a good thing when you have to give out tickets. It means people want to come see you, and you get to try to put on a show for guys you grew up with.”
Putting on a show is exactly what G-Time did in front of his friends and family. His season-high 30 points came off 11-of-15 shooting from the field including 2-of-3 from the arc, as well as a perfect 6-of-6 mark from the charity stripe. Gordon’s outstanding play thus far this season earned high praise from Indiana coach Frank Vogel.
“I just think he’s playing with confidence,” Vogel said of G-Time. “He’s got the ball in his hands a lot more now than he probably did in years past. I think that’s not necessarily by design as much as it is by reward. If you’re efficient with the basketball, if you make the right plays, you’re going to get the ball more. I think that’s what he’s experiencing.”
“He’s not a first- or second-year player anymore; they trust him with the ball and when he has the ball he’s making good things happen. His touches go up. It’s very impressive what he’s doing.”
Gordon was impressive right from the start, scoring or assisting on the team’s first seven points. After dishing on a bucket from Enes Kanter, G-Time took a kickout from Trey Burke. On the right wing, No. 20 splashed the wide-open jumper for the first three of his 30-piece. Gordon also had a nifty assist, when he drove the lane and bounced a pass through traffic for a Derrick Favors jam.
“He’s just instant offense for us,” Favors said of Gordon. “He’s coming out hitting big shots, making it easier for all of the other guys. Hopefully, he can keep it up for us.”
The Jazz were also strong defensively in the first frame, holding the Pacers to just 29.2 percent shooting from the floor. However, center Roy Hibbert did get off to a strong start for Indiana, tallying 11 of his 29 points in the first 12 minutes.
“Hibbert was a monster tonight,” Hayward said.
In the second, Hibbert and the Pacers captured the lead despite a monster quarter from Gordon. He notched in six points from the free-throw line before taking a handoff from Favors and knocking down a long two-pointer for his first field goal of the frame.
Later in the quarter, Gordon made an ill-advised pass that was stolen underneath the basket, but he made up for it. When Indiana pushed the ball on the fast break, No. 20 trailed and swatted Donald Sloan’s layup attempt on the other end.
Shortly after, G-Time closed out the second with a short jumper, but the Pacers took a 47-41 lead to the locker room.
Right out of the break, No. 20 was the spark plug for a big Utah rally. It started with a steal by Burke that led to an easy fast-break jam from G-Time. On the next possession, Burke again dished to Gordon, but this time it was on a triple. The Pacers caught Luis Scola sleeping and a Favors screen left No. 20 wide open up top.
Not long after, a layup from Alec Burks gave the lead to the Jazz, and No. 20 followed it by knocking down an elbow jumper to make it 54-51, Utah. On the next possession, Gordon drove the right side of the lane for a tough lay-up to preserve the three-point lead.
He then assisted on two Enes Kanter buckets, including a nice bounce pass through traffic that led to an easy dunk for the Jazz big man.
Even after the two dimes, Gordon wasn’t done. At the 2:48 mark, he curled around the defense and dropped in a reverse, over-the-shoulder layup to break a 63-63 tie.
“We had a chance to close them out,” Gordon said. “If we go on one more run, I think they might have folded.”
Moments later, he ended his quarter with a silky 17-footer—but a run to end the frame gave the home team a 72-69 lead at the end of three.
In the fourth, the Jazz stayed within range of the Pacers thanks to big threes from Burke and rookie Dante Exum, and Gordon checked back in at the 8:08 mark with his team down 82-77.
He wasted little time working to bring Utah back. After pulling down a defensive board, he took the ball in transition and stepped around another pick from Favors and dropped an 18-foot jumper. He later had a great dish on a Kanter three to make it 87-82.
However, on their home floor, the Pacers simply made the shots they needed to make down the stretch. A.J. Price, Hibbert and Solomon Hill all notched big buckets in the waning minutes, as Indiana kept Utah just out of reach of the comeback.
Despite the loss, Gordon left Indy pleased with the overall progress of his team and the growth it has shown since last season.
“Big difference from last year,” Gordon said. “As long as we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can compete with any team.”
Despite the apparent growth the Jazz are still left wanting more. After Gordon’s big night, head coach Quin Snyder praised his star shooter, but called for that development to continue.
“It’s not about Gordon. Gordon’s playing his (rear-end) off, but it’s about our team. Gordon will be the first one to tell you — it’s all of us,” Snyder said. “After (last night’s win at Detroit), you hope you can play well tonight and get another win, and it doesn’t happen.”
The Jazz (3-5) will continue their East Coast road trip Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks (3-3).
The Hawks are coming off back-to-back victories over the New York Knicks. The Jazz were 0-2 against the ATL squad last season.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET from Philips Arena in Atlanta. The contest will be broadcast on Root Sports.