Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz had their best performance against the San Antonio Spurs so far this season, but they still couldn’t stick with the No. 2 team in the NBA for four quarters.
G-Time had a tough night against reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi Leonard, totaling 11 points to snap a string of 10 games with 16 or more points as the Jazz fell 96-78. But even in the defeat, H20 likes where the Jazz are at in the short as they remain in the playoff hunt, and long-term in the quest to become a consistent contender like the Spurs have been for nearly two decades.
“We’ve had a lot of close games this season, we’re playing pretty good basketball,” Gordon said. “Tonight obviously was a little bit of a setback, but I think you just continue to play on the court together and, that kind of continuity is just accumulated over time. Those guys have been together for a long time so that’s why they’re so good.”
Two nights after shooting 85.7 percent from the field against the Houston Rockets, No. 20 struggled to find his shot through some tough defense by Leonard. The league’s top defender had a strong offensive night also, turning in 29 points. Gordon tipped his cap to the San Antonio wing.
“He makes you work on both ends, especially this year,” Hayward said. “In the past, it was a lot more on the defensive end. He’s such a good defender. He’s so long, he’s always getting his hands in passing lanes and stuff and now he’s been able to add a bunch of offensive weapons to his game and they’re looking to him a little bit more. He’s just always putting pressure on you.”
Gordon added two assists, two rebounds and a steal in the defeat that snapped Utah’s seven-game home winning streak. Shelvin Mack helped pace the Jazz early, scoring six points in the first quarter and helped them get out to a 23-18 advantage. Utah led 31-24 after G-Time converted a layup midway through the second, but from that point the Jazz went on a cold streak.
The Spurs went on an 11-0 run during a five-minute long drought for the offense, which only scored 12 points in the quarter. Coming out of the half trailing 39-35, Hayward helped get his squad going with the first points of the third quarter on a driving layup. Derrick Favors, who finished the night with 25 points on 12-of-17 shooting, went on to score the next four baskets for the Jazz to tie the game at 45 at the 9:04 mark.
“We were out there being aggressive and playing our style of basketball,” Favors said. “Going against the Spurs is a tough task. There’s a lot of great players over there. This was a tough loss for us. We don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves by looking at the standings. We just need to continue to play hard, play our game and be ready to play.”
After back-to-back successful possessions for the Spurs, G20 made a nice feed to Rudy Gobert who flushed it home with a powerful dunk to cut San Antonio’s lead to three. Later in the quarter, Gordon made a nifty play driving to the hoop on a reverse layup to make it a 56-52 game, but the Spurs managed to take a 65-57 lead into the fourth.
S.A. started to pull away down the stretch and the outscored the Jazz 31-21 in the final frame. The loss dropped the Jazz to 28-29 and after the Houston Rockets secured a victory in Portland, they now stand a half-game out of the playoff picture.
Utah’s offense as a whole struggled mightily as Rodney Hood, who finished the game with 12 points, was the only other Jazz player aside from G-Time and Favors to reach double digits in scoring. The squad collectively shot 43 percent from the floor and just 3-of-17 from beyond the arc.
“They’re a good defensive team. They force you to take tough twos. They’re also good at mixing up whether or not they’re switching on pick-and-rolls,” Gordon explained. “They’ve been doing it for a while…they’re a good team.”
G20 and the Jazz (28-29) will square off against the Brooklyn Nets (16-42) on Saturday. On Jan. 22, Utah handled the Nets by a final score of 108-86 with Hayward leading the way in scoring with 21 points.
Brooklyn has been pretty inconsistent all season, but are playing better basketball of late. The Nets have won three of their last six games with wins coming over the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and most recently over the Phoenix Suns last night.
Saturday’s game will tipoff at 7:30 p.m. MST from Vivint Smart Home Arena and will be aired on ROOT.