After signing a new deal with the Utah Jazz, Gordon Hayward came through with a breakout season in his fifth year in the NBA. So this offseason, we’re looking back at G-Time’s Top 5 performances from the 2014-15 campaign.
Kicking the list off in fifth place is a game where Gordon went head-to-head with a Finals MVP and three-time NBA champion—Dwyane Wade—and No. 20’s remarkably efficient performance sent his Jazz out on top.
No. 5—Dec. 17, 2014: G-Time’s 29 Freezes Miami Heat
When they headed down to Miami in mid-December, the Utah Jazz were itching for a for a victory that might propel them toward the holiday break with some momentum, and with his team in need, Gordon Hayward delivered one of his more electric performances of the season to key Utah to a 105-87 blowout victory over the Heat.
Gordon tallied 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and tacked on seven assists, six rebounds and a block. It was neither the first or last time over the course of the season that the 24-year-old budding superstar picked up his Jazz team, but it was an impressive enough all-around game to draw praise from Jazz head coach Quin Snyder.
Snyder lauded his young star not only for his offensive output, but also for his leadership on the court.
“The biggest thing we’re trying to impress on Gordon is just his communication on the court,” Snyder said. “He’s an intelligent player. He’s got a lot to give his teammates in addition to his ability to make baskets, get rebounds and things. The more we can hear his voice, I think it has a positive impact. From the very beginning of the game, you could hear our guys talking to each other. There was a connectivity on defense that we’ve been looking for.”
On this night, Gordon’s effort was everything Utah needed and then some.
The Jazz entered their meeting in Miami reeling — having lost 12 of their previous 13 games, including a five-point defeat at the hands of the Heat just a few nights earlier — and they were winless on the road for more than a month when they headed to South Beach. Making matters more difficult, Utah had to deal with a resurgent Dwyane Wade. The Miami star had just put 29 points on the Jazz in a win five days earlier and on this night he turned back the clock for a vintage 42-point performance. But Gordon stepped up with a star turn of his own.
Behind G-Time’s exceptional night, Utah cruised to a win that righted the ship and restored some of the team’s confidence. The Jazz won three of their next four games and that win in Miami tipped off a stretch in which they won seven of 11. Gordon called it “a big-time win,” which he credited not to his own outstanding outing, but rather the team’s suffocating defense.
“We guarded. Defensively, we were really good. We were active, there were contested shots, we were over on the weak side. Our defense is what got us that big of a lead,” Gordon said, also crediting Wade for making his life difficult. “It’s a battle in itself, guarding D-Wade. But my teammates got me involved early, I got some threes finally to go down, and when you see them go down, it makes the game a lot easier.”
Though the Jazz were strong on defense all night, No. 20 kick-started his team on the other end of the floor.
While playing every second of the first quarter, He tallied 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting, nearly matching the 16 points Miami put up in the period on his own. Gordon also pitched in for five points on a pair of assists and Utah jumped out to a 33-16 lead after the first period.
In the second, Wade was on a mission to get his team back in the game and scored 17 points, including several trips to the free throw line, where he knocked down 7-of-9 attempts. G-Time enjoyed some well-deserved rest at the outset of the frame, but returned to put up five points and two assists in the closing minutes, and the Jazz led by 14 at halftime.
The first half also featured some fireworks, as Jazz forward Trevor Booker picked up a pair of technical fouls in the final seconds of the half and was ejected. It was an especially heated bout between two squads with no natural rivalry.
The setback of losing Booker didn’t phase Utah much early in the second half. G-Time came out and continued distributing at an excellent clip in the third quarter. He tallied two more assists as his Jazz built a 77-59 lead heading into the final frame.
With Utah in command, it appeared No. 20’s night could be done. But as Gordon sat on the sidelines early in the fourth quarter, it quickly became evident that the Jazz would need him once more.
Wade continued putting on a clinic offensively and quickly trimmed the Jazz lead down to 12, forcing Snyder to go back to his star to close out a much-needed game. And Gordon did exactly that.
He entered with 6:29 remaining in regulation and 40 seconds later he drained an 18-footer. Wade matched with a jumper of his own on the other end, but Gordon didn’t fret. Less than a minute after his first bucket, Gordon knocked down a deep triple to push the lead back to 14. Though there were still five minutes remaining, it was perhaps the decisive shot of the contest. Just a few minutes prior to that shot, Miami’s comeback — fueled by a miraculous Wade run — had seemed inevitable. But Gordon’s clutch jumpers silenced the crowd and swung the momentum back to Utah’s side.
Alec Burks connected on a trey on the next Jazz possession to give Utah a bit more breathing room, and after some brief back and forth, G-Time iced the game in the final two minutes with a jumper followed by a pair of free throws.
“We really picked up our energy and were a lot more active,” Gordon said of his squad in the fourth quarter. “Coach always talks about activity and action and helping out on the weak side, and for the most part, besides D-Wade, we did a good job playing defense.”
Boosted by the confidence of that hard-earned victory, the Jazz went on to take down the Orlando Magic two days later, then after a loss to the Charlotte Hornets on the tail end of a back-to-back, they beat the Memphis Grizzlies on the road and the Philadelphia 76ers back in Utah.
It was perhaps the team’s best stretch of basketball in the first half of the season and let some confidence to their incredible mid-season turnaround in February, and it all started with the win in Miami. If Gordon hadn’t been able to knock down key shots both at the beginning and end of the contest, Wade’s offensive clinic might have been enough to carry the Heat to a win, and the Jazz season could have gone quite differently. Instead, a young team was able to get back on its horse and continue making progress in what became a highly promising season.