At the end of a five-game seven-day road trip, Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz found themselves in a familiar situation with two games coming down to the final quarter and the final seconds.
In the first, the Jazz came out on top, as Trey Burke hit a buzzer-beater to cap a 102-100 victory over the New York Knicks that featured a phenomenal battle between Gordon and Carmelo Anthony.
But in the second, with G-Time was slowed by the flu, the Jazz ran out of steam, and the Toronto Raptors ran away in the fourth quarter for a 111-93 victory.
Though their record now sits at 4-7, the Jazz have been incredibly competitive and have brought several games down to the wire this season. That has No. 20 optimistic about the team’s growth as the season rolls along.
“It’s encouraging that we’re there and giving ourselves a chance,” Gordon said at practice Monday. “It’s discouraging when we make little mistakes that cost us the game. Hopefully they’re different mistakes and not the same ones. Those are the most frustrating when you keep doing the same things over and over. But for the most part, I feel like our end-of-the-game execution has been pretty solid. We’re getting good shots and I think that’s why we’re able to knock them down.”
MELO AND GORDON SQUARE OFF AT MSG
For 47 minutes and 59 seconds, the Jazz-Knicks matchup was all about Hayward v. Anthony. The two stars put on an incredible show all night.
Anthony tallied 46 points off 16-of-26 shooting and added seven rebounds, an assist and steal. Gordon countered with 33 points off 11-of-18 shooting, while also throwing in six assists, three boards and four steals.
However, in that final second at Madison Square Garden, Burke stole the spotlight.
Following the lead of G-Time, who had hit two game-winners earlier in the year, the Utah guard knocked down a gritty baseline step-back to give Utah a 102-100 win. While Gordon didn’t have the ball in his hands, he played the role of decoy, as Utah head coach Quin Snyder revealed after the game.
“We thought Gordon had been tough to guard and he would draw some attention and Trey was able to slip out after screening for Derrick (Favors),” Snyder said of the final play. “Gordon was the focal point and Trey is the guy that’s been known for hitting big shots.”
Gordon called the play “awesome,” crediting inbounder Joe Ingles for making a fantastic decision and pass, and Burke for connecting on the big bucket.
“Joe made a great pass, Trey made a helluva play and a helluva shot,” Gordon said. “He acted like he was going to drive and stepped back, created space and knocked it down. It was a huge big-time, big-time shot. It was awesome.”
The Jazz were fantastic offensively all night, shooting 51.4 percent and tallying 25 total assists.
Utah came ready to play at one of the world’s most famous arenas. Gordon went 3-of-4 in the first for a team-high seven points, and his Jazz shot 64.7 percent thanks to eight assists and some excellent ball movement.
Gordon starting things off for Utah with a 17-footer in transition from the left wing. Shortly after, he tossed a nice kick-out to Alec Burks, who laced at three-pointer from up top to make it 8-5 Jazz.
Utah started the game 8-of-10 from the field, and G-Time added a tough drive through contact, as well as a spot-up three from the top of the key. Eight Jazzmen made the scoring column to set the team out to a 31-23 lead after 12 minutes.
In the second, G-Time’s strong night continued. He again went 3-of-4 for seven points, adding two assists and two steals. He started the frame with a crossover of rookie Cleanthony Early and a swift drive through the lane for two. Gordon then intercepted a pass intended for Anthony, giving him an easy fast-break dunk.
After tossing a great dish to Derrick Favors off a pick-and-roll, Gordon hit from deep for the second time in the game. However, unlike the first quarter, the committee around No. 20 wasn’t quite as strong. Meanwhile, Melo countered with seven points of his own to cut the Jazz lead to one at the break.
In the third, the Melo-Gordo battle raged on. Anthony turned in 13 points, while Gordon had six.
“He’s a competitor, man,” Gordon said of Anthony. “He’s a scorer. I love playing against guys like that. It gets a little physical down there, but that’s kind of the nature of who he is. He’s hard to guard. We put multiple guys on him and it still doesn’t seem like it works.”
However, while Melo scored more than the rest of his team combined in the frame, G-Time had some help. Eight Utah players scored in the third, including six points from Favors. This all set up a thrilling fourth quarter that featured a combined 30 points from Gordon and Anthony.
No. 20 got some much-needed rest to start the frame before checking in at the 8:06 mark with his team trailing 78-76. Shortly after re-entering, he put his head down and drove hard through the lane for an old-fashioned three-point play.
Moments later, he drove yet again and took an inadvertent shot to the face from Pablo Prigioni but still knocked down the running bucket to give Utah an 83-81 lead. That shot was one of several hits Gordon took during a physical battle in Manhattan.
“Physically, he’s really committed himself to getting stronger this summer,” Snyder said of Gordon. “It shows in the way he’s gone to the basket. He’s taking contact. And tonight it showed defensively. That’s just a really, really hard matchup.”
Anthony countered with all he had down the stretch, scoring 17 of his team’s final 19 points. But for every big Melo bucket, Gordon and the Jazz had an answer.
Gordon had a nice dish on a driving dunk from Favors and an even better cross-court assist to Burke, who canned a corner three with a defender in his face. Afterward, Burke talked about the epic battle between Gordon and Anthony.
“They competed, man,” Burke said. “Gordon, he’s one of those players who’s going to compete. He’s playing as well as anybody in the league in my opinion. Melo threw a couple shots at him, but he never backed down.”
That big Burke three gave Utah a seven-point lead with just three minutes to go, but Anthony kept fighting back. At the 45-second mark, the Knicks star drove past Gordon for a big dunk to cut the lead back to one. But on the other end G-Time answered, draining a critical step back jumper over the top of Melo.
With 16 seconds left, Gordon knocked down two clutch free throws to give Utah a 100-97 lead, but on the other end, Melo stepped up and drained the tying three while matched up with Favors.
On the final play of the game, Gordon didn’t hit the winning shot, but he played a key role in opening space for Burke. Off a screen, he darted outside the arc, drawing Anthony and Quincy Acy in his direction. This gave Ingles space to find an open Burke, who stepped back in the corner and drained the game-winner at the horn.
The enormous shot made Gordon look nothing less than clairvoyant. In his most recent blog post, published the day before the game, G-Time predicted that his buzzer beater against the Cavaliers on November 5th would give his teammates the gusto to do the same.
“Hitting a shot like that definitely helps your confidence, and confidence is contagious,” Gordon wrote. “Anytime you have an experience like that, it really helps your team out for the future. Whether or not you’re the one shooting it, you’ve seen your team come through at the last second. Everybody is more confident, and has gained that much more trust in one another. After seeing me do it, if Alec or Trey is in a situation similar to mine, I think it helps them believe: ‘Okay, I can do this too.’”
When Burked found himself in the situation, he did it, just as No. 20 forecasted.
After the thrilling victory, an exasperated Gordon talked about how he felt after a bruising head-to-head battle with one of the league’s toughest matchups.
“It’s sore,” G-Time said when asked how his body felt. “I’m sore. I was already kind of catching a cold. To have to fight him during that is exhausting, man. He’s a hassle down there. He creates the contact so even if you’re not really trying to, he’s right there battling you.”
RUN DOWN UP NORTH
Just one night after that fight in New York, the Jazz headed across the border to take on the Raptors. But this time, they were without the full services of No. 20.
Gordon was run down with the flu, but he still turned in 30 minutes of floor time, in which he scored 12 points and dished out five dimes.
“I was struggling out there. I just don’t have the energy right now,” Gordon said. “I’m just a little under the weather. It’s one of those things where you try to play through it, but it was rough.
“I think it’s important for me to play, just to have my presence out there. To show the guys you have to fight through adversity.”
Gordon’s leadership by example fueled the Jazz to three strong quarters of play against the Eastern Conference’s best team in the early going.
The Jazz took a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter and stretched that to three, 49-46, at the end of one. G-Time fought his way to four points and three assists in that first half.
In Gordon’s stead, the rest of the Jazz starters did battle with Toronto’s lethal guard duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. That pair finished with 19 and 27 points respectively, while all five Jazz starters were in double figures, paced by 18 points each from Favors and Enes Kanter.
Afterward, Trevor Booker, who added six points off the bench, talked about Gordon’s impact on the game.
“He’s a tough guy, you know,” Booker said of Gordon. “We know he wanted to be on the court with us and fighting with us. We know we can count on him.”
Snyder also detailed the status of his ailing star, and even though Gordon didn’t stuff the stat sheet like he usually does, the Utah coach identified him as a major reason Utah was able to hang tight with Toronto.
“He’s tired and he’s not feeling great. He easily could have not played tonight,” Snyder said. “We used him. He tried to play. He played in a way to try to help our team win. He was a big part of the fact that we were ahead.”
Behind DeRozan and Lowry, the Raptors captured a four-point lead going into the fourth. But early in the final frame, Gordon used every drop he had left in the tank to try to bring his team back. He started it with a conventional three-point play made possible by a tough drive to the rack.
He then attacked off the dribble again, slicing through the lane for a big-two handed slam to give Utah an 83-82 lead at the 8:04 mark. But unfortunately, that was the last time the Jazz were ahead.
In the last eight minutes, the Raptors outscored the Jazz 29-10 to run away with a victory on their home floor.
“I think we did run out of gas there at the end,” Hayward said. “We can’t use that as an excuse. We’ve just got to be better. We’ve got to be better.”
Despite the loss, Snyder came away pleased with the way his team battled against one of the best teams in the league so far this season.
“I think if you look at the game for three and a half quarters, you’ve got to feel that there were some really good things. Toronto’s a very good team—they’re difficult to defend when they get it going. … As a team, they clearly have an identity that’s sound, and it makes the very difficult to beat.”
Gordon left the game disappointed that his squad ended the road trip at just 2-3, but he took solace knowing that the young Jazz will only learn from the experience.
“At 2-3, I’m disappointed because I felt like we had two of these games and we lost them both,” Gordon said of defeats in Indiana and Atlanta. “[But] I think there are a lot of things we can take from this trip that are positives, a lot of good things. There are experiences and situations we were put in that will help us in the long run.”
The Jazz (4-7) got two days to rest up from the grueling week-long road trip before they return to action Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder (3-8).
The Thunder have been one of the NBA’s best teams in recent years, but are off to a rough start in the 2014-15 season due to the absence of their two stars: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. At practice Monday, Gordon talked about what he expects to see from OKC without its dynamic duo.
“They’re without two of the best players in the NBA—two of the best players in the world,” Gordon said. “(They’ll bring) a little bit less isolations, probably a little more pick-and-roll. That being said, they still have good players on their team, and it’s going to be a tough game for us.”
Utah went 1-3 against OKC last season. The only victory came at home, and Gordon led the way with 37 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block.
He’ll look to duplicate that performance when the Jazz and the Thunder tip-off at 9 p.m. ET from EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. Root Sports will have the local broadcast.
- The Roundup — Jazz 93, Raptors 111 (UtahJazz.com, Nov. 15, 2014)
- Ill Hayward feels ‘a little better’ after some rest (Salt Lake Trib, Nov. 17, 2014)
- Jazz keeping big-picture perspective after rough road trip (Salt Lake Trib, Nov. 16, 2014)
- Jazz need Hayward to fight through fatigue as road trip ends (Salt Lake Trib, Nov. 15, 2014)
- Hayward battered, bruised and victorious after showdown with Anthony (Salt Lake Trib, Nov. 14, 2014)
- Burke buzzer beater downs New York Knicks (Salt Lake Trib, Nov. 14, 2014)
- Hayward showing his worth with much-improved shooting (Deseret News, Nov. 17, 2014)
- Jazz run out of gas in 111-93 loss at Toronto (Deseret News, Nov. 15, 2014)
- Burke’s buzzer-beater steals spotlight from Gordon-Melo duel (Deseret News, Nov. 14, 2014)
- Jazz at Knicks: Game Book (NBA.com, Nov. 14, 2014)