The best team in the NBA descended upon Salt Lake City Friday night, and Gordon Hayward greeted them with one of the best performances of his career.
Gordon tallied a team-high 26 points and a career-high 15 rebounds to go with six assists and three steals, leading the Utah Jazz to a marvelous 110-100 upset victory over the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s one of those games where we were extremely focused as a team,” Gordon said. “Everybody defensively from the get-go was really good. We got some energy, we got some steals, and we kind of never looked back.”
The Jazz never trailed the Warriors, who brought the NBA’s best record to EnergySolutions Arena—and a driving force behind their first wire-to-wire victory of the season was strong play early from No. 20.
Gordon had two of his three steals and five of his 15 boards in the first quarter, leading to a game-high eight points, as he played the entire first 12 minutes.
“I feel like when I’m active early, I usually have a good game, and tonight was one of those cases,” said Gordon. ” I got about three or four rebounds very early, so I was able to bring the ball up myself and get going in transition. I feel like I’m starting to read defenses more, and that’s helping me.”
The pervious night out, G-Time was slowed by a sinus cold, and with his energy drained, he struggled through a 4-of-13 shooting night. Two days later, he turned around and went 9-of-20 from the field and came through with a high-energy effort on both ends of the floor. Including that last contest, Gordon has scored 24 or more points in four of the last five games.
“It was good to see (Gordon) get energized and get some of his juice back,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I think he’s always risen to a challenge in a matchup. He played really well and played really hard. … The biggest thing is his rebounding.”
Gordon accepted to a couple of challenges Friday night. He drew the ever-tough matchup of guarding his USA national squad teammate Klay Thompson. The Golden State guard has had a breakout season, but Gordon held the newly minted All-Star to just 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
Another challenge came on the boards. He revealed after the game that cleaning up the glass has been a point of emphasis for his improvement, and that Snyder and the rest of the staff has hammered that area home in practice this season.
He left the contest thrilled with the win and pleased with his performance, but he explained that efforts like this only lead him to believe that he has a long way to go before he hits his ceiling.
“I think I still have so much more proving to do,” Gordon said. “I think this season I’ve gotten a lot better—I’ve been able to knock down some shots, I’m starting to read the defenses a little more—but I still feel like I have a lot more left that I can do.”
While he still has areas he wants to do more, G-Time did plenty Friday night.
No. 20 scored the game’s first bucket on a runner through the lane. Not long after, he out-hustled the Warriors to pull in a Dante Exum miss, which he took right back up for two, making it 10-8 in favor of the home team.
Shortly thereafter, he picked off a pass intended for Thompson and turned it in to an easy dunk on the other end. No. 20 was also strong from the charity stripe on the night, where he went 7-of-8, including two hits in the first quarter.
Behind Gordon’s big first, the Jazz held a slight, 23-19, lead after one. In the second, the Utah bench took its turn and the Jazz offense exploded.
Trevor Booker led the way in the second with 12 of his 17 points, while Trey Burke and Elijah Millsap each had six. G-Time helped that group along its way when he fed Burke for a trifecta midway through the frame.
Gordon had four points in the quarter himself: an incredible tough and deep two-pointer at the end of the shot clock, as well as a fast-break dunk off a setup by Booker. After two quarters, the Jazz held a 56-45 lead.
“We didn’t have enough life tonight on the road against a young, hungry team,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “They played a lot better tonight, and they took it to us.”
Coming out of the break, MVP candidate Stephen Curry tried to lead the Warriors back, knocking down three shots from beyond the arc for 15 of his 32 points, but Gordon and the Jazz kept up their pressure.
No. 20 added seven more points, six rebounds and three assists in the third—the first two of which came on buckets by Derrick Favors, who added six points to the cause. Gordon’s third dime went out to Booker, who took it and canned a corner three to stretch the lead to 17.
The Warriors outscored the Jazz 32-39 in the final period, but it was too little, too late. Gordon countered with seven more points, including a clutch three with just two minutes to go and two free throws to ice the game in the final 10 seconds and hand Golden State just its eighth loss of the season.
Utah (17-30) will have three days off before heading to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Trail Blazers, who have dropped eight of their last 10.
The Jazz have yet to play Portland this season, but fell twice to the Trailblazers early in the preseason.
The Jazz currently sit 14.5 games back of their Northwest division foe, and even with their recent injury-plagued skid, the Blazers still find themselves in fourth place in the West.
After the win over the Warriors, Gordon talked about his team’s mindset while playing the West’s best—an attitude they’ll need to beat the Blazers on the road.
“I think we just came ready to play,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you’re playing against arguably the best team in the NBA and you’re going to be excited, you’re going to be hyped up to play. We need to bring that energy against everybody and play like we’re playing against them every night.”
Tipoff is set for 10 p.m. ET Tuesday from Portland’s Moda Center. The game will nationally broadcast on NBA TV.