Gordon Hayward recorded his third straight output greater than 23 points Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics, but it wasn’t enough lift the slow-starting Utah Jazz.

A poor first half left the Jazz down by 24 points at the break, and that deficit was too much for Utah to overcome, even despite 26 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks from G-Time, who provided a plus-13 scoring advantage for his squad on the night.

After the 99-90 defeat, No. 20 talked about his team’s rough start, and how the Jazzmen must work to overcome that habit.

Boston Celtics v Utah Jazz

“It’s on us,” Gordon said. “We just have to be able to play with a little more force in the first half. This thing has happened more than one time this year. We wait until our back is against the wall until we start fighting. So we have to be able to figure it out.”

Both squads started a bit slow in a back-and-forth first quarter. The largest lead for either team was five over the first 12 minutes, and the two squads entered the second quarter tied at 17.

G-Time scored the game’s first points, dropping in a layup off a hard drive up the left side. Later, he intercepted an Evan Turner pass and turned it into a two-handed jam on the other end.

In that second frame, however, the wheels fell off for the Jazz. Tayshaun Prince and Avery Bradley went off for the C’s, each hitting a pair of threes and pouring on 10 points.

The Celtics dominated every facet of the game in the second quarter, starting the quarter on a 27-9 run. Boston shot 60 percent, went 6-of-9 from deep and scored 38 points. On the other end, Utah shot just 29 percent and recorded six turnovers, falling behind 55-31 at the half.

“I think we just realized we could play a lot better, we could be a lot more aggressive on both ends,” Gordon said of his team’s halftime outlook. “Coach didn’t really yell at us or anything. It was more internal than anything. I think we realized we can’t let them bully us like that. That’s not who we are.”

Despite the big advantage, Boston head coach Brad Stevens—who coached Gordon at the collegiate level with the Butler Bulldogs knew all too well how dangerous the Jazz, with G-Time at the helm, could be.

Boston Celtics v Utah Jazz

“We knew that it was far from over,” Stevens said. “Especially when they have a guy like Gordon who can just go downhill at that rate of speed and make plays for people. When they start making shots, it’s scary.”

In the third, Gordon did exactly as his former coach feared. No. 20 scored 13 of his game-high 26 points. The Jazz flipped the script completely, shooting 60.9 percent to cut the deficit to five for the fourth quarter. While the offensive outburst was huge, Utah’s defensive effort was an even bigger factor in the turnaround.

The Jazz held the Celtics to 33.3 percent shooting and scored 11 points off turnovers. After the game, G-Time credited guard Joe Ingles for igniting that defensive turnaround with three steals in the third.

“He was excellent defensively, just getting up into somebody, making them uncomfortable, kind of doing exactly what they did to us,” Gordon said of Ingles. “It kind of got everyone going. For sure, he was a spark.”

Gordon followed Ingles’ lead late in the third with a play that earned Steal of the Night honors. No. 20 stepped in front of an errant Marcus Thornton pass, picking it off and tossing an outlet pass downcourt to Elijah Millsap. The new Jazzman found guard Trey Burke in the corner for a wide-open three that cut the deficit to four, 60-56, and forced a Boston timeout.

Gordon hit from deep three times in the third quarter, including one from up top with eight seconds left in the frame to make it 71-66 for the fourth.

With No. 20 grabbing some rest, the Celtics opened the final frame on an 8-0 run. G-Time re-entered with his team down 12 with six minutes to go. In the final minutes, Gordon scored seven straight points for his team, cutting the deficit to five with 20 seconds left.

Boston Celtics v Utah Jazz

However, Turner and Brandon Bass closed the game 4-of-4 at the stripe for Boston to escape Salt Lake with a win.

Jazz center Enes Kanter continued to play well, pouring in 20 points, and Trey Burke, who has embraced his new role coming of the bench, added 18.

For the ninth time this month, Gordon scored 17 or more points. In his last two outings, he hit 24 in wins over the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, though his 26 this time around wasn’t quite enough.

As the season just tips past its halfway point, Gordon is sitting well above his career high in scoring. Last year was his best, where he averaged 16.2 per game—but he has tallied 19.2 points per contest thus far this season.

His collegiate coach, who saw him up close and in person Wednesday night, talked about the strides No. 20 has made in this, his fifth, NBA season.

“I said last year, I thought he was playing well,” Stevens said of Gordon. “But I think right now he’s in a different rhythm than I’ve ever seen him playing-wise.”

NEXT UP

Gordon and the Jazz (16-29) will play host to the surging Los Angeles Clippers (31-14) Wednesday in a rematch of the Dec. 29 game in which the Clippers edged out the Jazz 101-97.

Gordon scored 22 points to go along with seven assists, in their matchup at Staples Center, and will look to get revenge at home. The Clippers have won five-straight, and sit in fourth place in the West.

Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. EST from EnergySolutions Arena. The game will be broadcast on Root Sports.

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