Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz entered the weekend coming off an enormous win against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, but they couldn’t keep that momentum going against two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
The Jazz fought through a slow start against the defending East champion Miami Heat, only to fall in a narrow 100-95 final. To make matters worse, Utah lost forward Derrick Favors to an ankle injury in the defeat.
Playing two nights later without Favors, the Jazz offense sputtered in a 93-84 defeat to the current No. 2 team in the East, the Washington Wizards.
“We have guys who step up when somebody goes down. Derrick is one of our leaders and obviously one of our best players, so it’s difficult without him. But I don’t think you can blame our play on that,” Gordon said after Friday’s loss to Miami.
While Utah entered Friday night’s tilt coming off a huge victory, Miami took the floor determined to reverse an ugly loss to the Denver Nuggets two nights earlier.
The Heat exploded out to a 14-8 lead just four minutes into the game, making their first six field goal attempts along the way. The Jazz fought back behind a combined 18 points from their young starting five, but with two minutes left in the first, Favors landed awkwardly on his ankle, signaling the end of his weekend.
In his stead, center Enes Kanter had a fantastic night, going 10-of-17 for a team-high 25 points with eight rebounds. Meanwhile Rudy Gobert filled in admirably with nine points, 11 rebounds, four assists and five blocks. Gordon praised the play of both of his frontcourt mates.
“It’s one of those things where, when he’s out on the court, he provides a sense of calmness, and you get some confidence when he’s out there,” Gordon said of Favors. “But I thought for the most part Rudy played tremendous, Enes did well too. So when they stepped up, it was probably the rest of us who needed to pick it up more.”
The loss of Favors hurt the Jazz most in the second, as they scrambled to find their way without him on the fly. Kanter took center stage, scoring 14 of the team’s 23 points in the third, but the Utah defense faltered.
The Heat shot 62.9 percent in the first half, and in the second quarter, they attacked the Favors-free paint for 16 points to take a 15-point lead into the locker room.
“It’s the million-dollar question,” Gordon said of the team’s first-half struggles. “I thought we played pretty well in the first quarter, but then just gave up too many easy shots for them. They came out firing on all cylinders. In the second quarter, we had a little lull again, and we got down.”
After the break, Utah was able to regroup and reconstruct its gameplan. And as they have through much of the season, they came out playing inspired basketball after halftime.
Gordon led the way in third with eight points and two key connections from deep. Utah started the third on a 12-5 run, capped by a deep three from No. 20 that cut the deficit to just eight.
Then with less than two minutes to go in the third, Gordon splashed a triple from the left wing, making it just a seven-point game. Rookie guard Dante Exum followed Gordon’s lead in the final second before the fourth, knocking down a trey to make it just a four-point contest, 78-74.
“I’m proud of the way we fought and gave ourselves a chance,” Gordon said after He finishing with 18 points, eight rebounds and an assist. “We had our opportunities.”
The Jazz kept battling in the fourth, cutting the deficit down to just one, but the Heat never did give up their lead. No. 20 made several tough plays down the stretch, including driving to the rack for two to cut the Miami lead to two with just 10 seconds to go.
Utah was down just three with five seconds left, but as Joe Ingles tried to inbound on the potential game-tying play, he was whistled for a five-second violation, giving the ball, and the game, to the Heat.
“We’ve executed plays before to win basketball games, that one just didn’t work out for us,” Gordon said. “They did a good job taking away what we wanted, and for whatever reason, we couldn’t get the ball in…Just didn’t work for us tonight.”
JAZZ FALL IN D.C.
While the third quarter was nearly Utah’s saving grace against Miami, it was its downfall against Washington.
The Jazz learned their lesson from last game and came out strong, though again without Favors. Gordon had four points, as the starting five, featuring Gobert in place of Favors, combined for 21 points and forced seven turnovers to take a 24-22 lead.
The second brought additional staunch defense. Utah forced five more turnovers and held the Wizards to 27.3 percent shooting. The Jazz had 21 points off 12 turnovers in the first and carried a 42-37 lead into the break.
“I really like that core group, they have some good talent, some nice players,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said of the Jazz.
However, in reverse fashion from the night before, the Jazz were smashed in the third quarter. The veteran Wizards regrouped at the break and shot 59 percent in the third, dished out 10 assists, and only turned the ball over twice to flip their five-point deficit to a nine-point lead.
“We started turning the ball over[in the third quarter]. You can’t shoot yourself in the foot like that,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “You don’t really get a chance to defend when you’re turning it over. The Wizards are very good at converting those and getting out in transition—(John) Wall in particular. We’re looking at their backs when we turn it over.”
Gordon began attacking the basket to cut away at the lead in the fourth, and he turned his aggression into seven points at the charity stripe. However, as Washington continued to hit shots, Utah wasn’t able to bring the home team’s lead below six points.
G-Time finished with 16 points, seven boards, three assists, a steal and a block, but the Jazz, shooting less than 40 percent, weren’t able to keep up with the Wiz down the stretch.
“If we can put together two halves, we’ll be a heck of a team,” said Jazz forward Trevor Booker, who had eight points and nine rebounds off the bench. “But we’re working towards that right now.”
The Jazz (6-18) will have a day of rest and travel before continuing their six-game road trip Tuesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans (11-12).
Gordon went off for 31 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block when these two teams met just less than a month ago, though the Jazz, unable to stop NOLA’s Anthony Davis, fell 106-94.
Tipoff for the second of three meetings between the two teams is set for 8 p.m. EST at Smoothie King Arena. The game will be broadcast on Root Sports.
- The Roundup — Jazz 95, Heat 100, (UtahJazz.com, Dec. 12, 2014)
- The Roundup — Jazz 84, Wizards 93 (UtahJazz.com, Dec. 14, 2014)
- Jazz 95, Heat 100: Gordon Hayward (1280 The Zone, Dec. 12, 2014)
- Jazz lose tough game to heat; Favors injured (Deseret News, Dec. 12, 2014)
- Jazz lose without Derrick Favors yet again (Deseret News, Dec. 14, 2014)
- Young Jazz get to see process of contending Wizards close up (Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 14, 2014)
- Jazz lose 93-84 to Washington Wizards (Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 14, 2014)
- Wizards overcome sluggish start, top Jazz (AP, Dec. 14, 2014)
- Heat at Jazz: Game Book (NBA.com, Dec. 12, 2014)
- Jazz at Wizards: Game Book (NBA.com, Dec. 14, 2014)