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.
Coming in at No. 4, was a 32-point outburst from Gordon—his second straight game over 30. In this contest, it all came on an enormous second half.
No. 4—Feb. 9, 2015: Gordon Hits 30 For 2nd Straight Game vs. NOLA
The Utah Jazz played their best basketball after the All-Star break, winning games at a nearly 2/3 clip after a rough start to the season. But their surge truly may have began before the break, when Gordon Hayward rose up with back-to-back 30 point efforts to lift his team to a pair of much-needed victories.
The second of those wins came on the road, against a playoff-bound New Orleans Pelicans team, showing for one of the first times all season that the Jazz were a force to be reckoned with down the stretch.
Over the course of an outstanding 2014-15 NBA season, Gordon Hayward often put the Utah offense on his back, posting scoring totals that helped increase his season scoring average by more than three points per game over the previous campaign. But few performances were as impressive as the two-game stretch he put together just days before the All-Star Break from February 7-9 with his team, sitting at 17-33 on the season, in need of a boost from their star.
First on February 7 in Utah, Gordon tallied 30 points on 23 shots while leading the Jazz to a 102-90 win over the Sacramento Kings in front of a raucous home crowd. That win ended a three-game losing streak.
Two nights later, at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, G-Time found his team facing a halftime deficit, in need of another lift. So No. 20 turned up his aggression in the second half and showed off his keen scoring ability once more. He put up 25 of his game-high 32 points after halftime and needed one fewer shot than he’d taken two nights before to get his total. The young star forward added eight assists, seven rebounds, two steals and a block in his 39 minutes of action. Gordon’s second-half heroics allowed Utah to sneak out of NOLA with a 100-96 victory over the eventual eighth-seed Pelicans.
“It was just one of those things where coaches said, `Look, we need some offense here,’ (and) just gave me some guidance to stay aggressive,” Gordon said. “You’ve got to step up and be able to make some big-time shots and tonight some of those went down.”
More than some went down for No. 20 in the second half, needing just about every one to pull out the victory against New Orleans.
He put up a team-high seven points in the first period as the teams traded leads, but he went scoreless in the second as the Pelicans outscored the Jazz 27-15 in the quarter. Down by 10 at the half, Utah struggled to open the third period as well, not getting its first points until nearly three minutes in.
A hectic third period saw the two teams combine for 12 offensive rebounds, 11 personal fouls, 10 blocks and nine turnovers, while Gordon drilled more shots from the field (six) than the entire Pelicans team (five).
G-Time didn’t really get started until more than halfway through the period, however.
No. 20 got the basket for a layup at the 5:32 mark for his second basket of the third frame, then stole a pass a minute later and took it all the way for another layup.
The two easy buckets got Gordon’s jumper working, and he put it on display on the next possession with a sweet 18-footer to cut the deficit to just four points.
New Orleans began cheating toward No. 20 at that point, which was just fine with Gordon, who played a decoy role for the next few possessions. A Steve Novak triple brought Utah within two, then G-Time followed it up with a three of his own to give the Jazz their first lead since midway through the second period.
His jumper fell through with 34.7 showing on the clock—perfect timing for Utah to execute a two-for-one and get the last shot of the period. New Orleans was unable to convert on the other end, Gordon snatched up the rebound, then finished up the quarter with another deep three to put the Jazz up 71-67.
“It’s a sign of growth, a sign of experience,” Gordon said after the game of his improved jump shot. “I’m shooting the ball a lot better this year and I think a lot of that is because of the experience and also just putting a lot of work in.”
G-Time played facilitator for much of the fourth quarter, recording four assists in just more than nine minutes on the court, but when the Jazz needed buckets to close out the tight contest, No. 20 was ready to come through.
With his team up by just one and barely more than a minute showing on the clock, Gordon drove to the basket for a heavily contested layup in which he drew serious contact, but no foul was called and he couldn’t convert. Relentless, Gordon stuck with the play, grabbed the offensive rebound and followed up with a bucket to put Utah up 94-91 with 1:09 remaining.
Derrick Favors swiped an errant pass on the Pelicans’ next possession, and Gordon drained a clutch 19-footer with 38.4 left to put the Jazz up by five. It took New Orleans more than 20 seconds to put up points on the other end, but it was soon back down to a three-point game and the fouling began.
The Jazz managed to get the ball into No. 20’s hands and the Pelicans were forced to send the star forward to the line for two, which he calmly knocked down. Eric Gordon converted an improbable triple on the other side of the court, so New Orleans still had hope to pull off the comeback, but Utah was able to find G-Time again and the Pelicans again put him at the line.
With 8.2 seconds showing on the clock and the Jazz up by two, Gordon had a chance to put the game out of reach by drilling both from the charity stripe. He did just that, for his 31st and 32nd points of the evening, and Utah was able to hold on for a 100-96 win in New Orleans.
Gordon Hayward was 2-of-10 at one point in this game. He finished 10-of-22 with 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) February 10, 2015
32/8/6. That's as good as it gets in this league, on the road.
— Ben Anderson (@BenKFAN) February 10, 2015
All-Star Snub Gordon Hayward
— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) February 10, 2015
Gordon Hayward: 1st time in his career that he's scored 30 or more in back-to-back games
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 10, 2015
— Clint Peterson (@Clintonite33) February 10, 2015
Gordon Hayward since Dante Exum moved into the starting lineup: 23.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.6 APG on 50.3% shooting overall and 47.7% from 3.
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 10, 2015
The two-game spurt—in which Utah went 2-0 behind 62 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds, four steals and a block by Gordon—marked the beginning of Utah’s incredible run to end the regular season.
The Jazz were 17-33 before the back-to-back wins over the Kings and Pelicans, then they lost to the Dallas Mavericks before the All-Star break. Coming out of the break, Utah rattled off 11 wins in its next 13 games, making it 13 of 16 overall. No. 20 was stellar during that stretch, playing in all but one game—a win over the New York Knicks.
In the 12 wins Gordon played in, out of 15 games, he averaged more than 21 points on nearly 45 percent shooting, five rebounds and four assists per game.
Guard Elijah Millsap recognized Gordon’s brilliant play this season after the win over the Pelicans, and he was hardly the only one.
“He’s been unbelievable for this team,” Millsap said. “He’s been playing out of his mind, playing like an all-star.”
Guard Trey Burke had similar praise for the young superstar, being especially grateful for the extra attention defenses give Gordon.
“It’s great when he plays that way. We’re going to need for him to play that way,” Burke said of G-Time after the Feb. 7 win over the Kings. “It helps us all. Defenses have to worry about him, and he’s such good passer as well, he’s able to find the open man.”
- Hayward’s huge second half propels Jazz to win in New Orleans (ESPN, February 9, 2015)
- G-Time big for Jazz in win over Kings (ESPN, February 7, 2015)
- Aaron Harrison thinks he would fit well with Hayward, Burks (Deseret News, June 5, 2015)
- Hayward among Utah’s best-ever draft picks? (Deseret News, June 5, 2015)