Gordon Hayward helped get his team back in the game down the stretch, but the Utah Jazz couldn’t seal the deal against the Atlanta Hawks

G-Time scored 11 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, but the Jazz couldn’t quite close their rally and fell by a final score of 91-84. The effort by H20, who added six boards, three assists, a steal and a block in the contest, brought Utah within three after falling behind 66-57 going into the fourth.

Atlanta Hawks v Utah Jazz

Utah combined for only 30 points between the first and fourth quarters after holding a double-digit lead at the conclusion of the first. The Atlanta defense played an outstanding game, forcing 20 Jazz turnovers and limiting them to just 16 assists.

“I think they’re a good defensive team, so you have to tip your hat to them…they have been doing it for the past 20- or 30-plus games. I think they are number one in the NBA in defense, so that is what they do.” Gordon said of the Hawks. “They were good tonight at shutting down the pass, and forcing mid-range looks. You miss a few, and you start forcing passes that aren’t there, and that’s when turnovers happen.”

Gordon and the Jazz got off to a solid start and H20’s first bucket of the game, a pull-up jumper, gave Utah an early 10-4 advantage. Hayward converted on the following possession as well and his driving layup put the Jazz back up by six after Paul Millsap answered for the Hawks.

The Jazz finished the quarter on a 12-6 run and led 27-16 entering the second frame. G-Time was held without a field goal in the second 12 minutes, as the Jazz offense hit a wall after the solid start. Atlanta outscored Utah 25-15, but the Jazz still held on to a 42-41 lead at the half.

“We’re getting double-digit leads early in the game,” Gordon said. “It’s just a little stagnant later on. We have a lapse for whatever reason. Turnovers happen, we’re not making shots, whatever etcetera, etcetera. Now all of a sudden our lead’s gone and we’re in a dogfight, momentum’s shifted and it’s a different game.”

Atlanta Hawks v Utah Jazz

It was more of the same for Hayward in Co. in the third as the Hawks outscored the Jazz 25-15 again. G-Time’s trey at the 7:31 mark of the quarter cut the Atlanta lead to three, but the Hawks continued to keep Utah’s offense in check and the Jazz found themselves in a nine-point hole after three.

“We’re putting too much pressure on the defense when we only score 15 points in a quarter,” No. 20 said. “For the most part tonight, our defense was solid. But given that we had two quarters tonight where we only scored 30 points, when you’re not putting the ball in the basket, they are running the floor and getting transition points before we’re set. Our offense just has to be better.”

Atlanta pushed its lead to 11 midway through the fourth before Gordon fueled the comeback, showcasing his full arsenal. He kicked it off with a runner to cut the lead to nine, and then found Derrick Favors on a cutting dunk to slice it to seven. He bridged the gap with a couple of free throws before draining a three-pointer and a floater on back-to-back possessions to make it just a one-possession game, 80-77, with 3:40 to go.

Unfortunately, that’s as close as the Jazz came. Atlanta made some strong plays on offense and defense down the stretch to halt the rally.

“I think just tough, tough, tough night for us,” Hayward explained. “Offensively we struggled. We got some good looks; we just did not knock them down and, when you can’t put the ball in the basket, it really makes it tough on you. I think that was the story of the game tonight.”

NEXT UP

Gordon the Jazz (29-34) will look to chip away at the two-game deficit for the final seed in the Western Conference when they take on the Golden State Warriors (56-6) tonight on the road.

The defending NBA champions have been on a historic run this season and the Jazz will be tasked with trying to hand the Warriors their first loss at home this season.

“It’s an opportunity for us to go in there—we have nothing to lose,” Gordon said of playing Golden State. “We just have to get rid of this one in our mind. Hopefully we come out impressive. They’re really good at home, and we have nothing to lose, so it’s another chance.”

Back in late November, Hayward led the charge against the Warriors with 24 points and helped push the defending champs to the brink in close 103-106 defeat. A couple months ago, the Jazz didn’t have as much success on the road and they fell to Golden State by a final score of 85-103.

Tonight’s game will tip off at 8:30 p.m. MST from Oracle Arena and will be broadcasted on ROOT.

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