Gordon Hayward scored a team-high 26 points, but after an impressive start the Utah Jazz fizzled down the stretch and fell to the Toronto Raptors.
The Jazz lost by a final score of by 104-94 in the second game of Hayward and Co.’s four-game road swing. G-Time did his part to help his group hang with a talented Raptors team, but it wasn’t enough to come away with the win. Gordon added a team-high six assists, three boards and a block while knocking down three shots from beyond the arc.
After another disappointing loss, H20 emphasized the team’s defensive struggles against Toronto’s All-Star backcourt featuring Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who both tallied 30-plus points in the contest.
“We’ve got to start playing the defense that we’re capable of,” Gordon said. “Letting two guys get 30, it’s going to be tough, tough to win those games. We’re going to have to play defense really well. We can’t turn the ball over. We’ve had trouble with that.”
Offensively, Hayward got off to a red-hot start to open the game, leading all scorers with 13 points. H20 drained his first four shots with ease, opening the scoring on a jumper to put the Jazz on the board and followed up with another successful pull-up jump shot on the next possession.
A couple possessions later, Hayward knocked down a trey to give the Jazz an 11-10 lead at the 7:52 mark of the first quarter. DeRozan answered with a bucket of his own, but Gordon continued to impress as his fourth consecutive make of the frame came on a driving layup to put the Jazz up 14-13.
G-Time closed the opening period with two more field goals to give Utah the lead going into the second. Gordon’s running pull-up jumper gave the Jazz a 24-22 edge, and after DeRozan answered for the Raptors again, Hayward drained his 20-foot attempt as the buzzer sounded and the Jazz led 26-24.
From that point, the Jazz went on an 11-2 run to open the second. Hayward’s four-point play later in the quarter extended Utah’s lead to nine with 5:49 left in the half after he was fouled by Bismack Biyombo and impressively still managed to make the attempt.
The Raptors started to chip away at Utah’s lead, and one of the turning points of the bout came when Terrance Ross knocked down a three-pointer to cut the Jazz lead to eight. In the process, one of Utah’s top scoring options, Rodney Hood, collided with Biyombo in the paint, left the game with a minor head injury and didn’t return.
As Gordon explained, the departure of Hood was exactly what the Jazz didn’t need against one of the top backcourts in the world.
“It’s huge. He’s another guy that can make plays for himself, make plays for our team,” Gordon said of Hood’s absence. “A defense has to respect him. It was huge — a bad, bad loss for us.”
Toronto finished the first half on an 18-5 run and the Jazz trailed 52-49 at the break. G-Time was quiet to start the third and his first score of the frame came with 6:21 to go when he kissed his jumper off the glass to bring the Jazz within eight. The Jazz struggled collectively in the quarter and trailed 85-74 entering the fourth.
Four consecutive makes for Trey Burke cut Toronto’s lead to 92-85, and the Jazz started chipping away at the deficit late. H20 scored the next five points for Utah, hitting two free throws and canning his third three of the game to make it a 94-90 contest. However, Toronto went on a 10-2 run to close out the quarter and seal the game.
“I thought we played through some adversity. … So it’s not like our team [quit]. They never do. Our guys competed until the last possession,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Give Toronto credit too. There’s a reason they’re as good of a team as they are and have the record they have. We weren’t able to match them for the whole game tonight.”
Hayward and Co. will look to get back on track on Friday when the Jazz (28-32) take on the Memphis Grizzlies (36-24).
The Jazz have had success against the current No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. Utah beat the Grizzlies in each of their previous two matchups this season. The Jazz beat Memphis by a final score of 89-79 on Nov. 7, and on Jan. 2 they prevailed in overtime by a final score of 92-87.
Friday’s game is slated to tipoff at 6 p.m. MST from FedEx Forum and will be aired on ROOT.