After missing two games with plantar fasciitis, Gordon Hayward returned to the lineup this weekend and helped the surging Utah Jazz earn a split on the road.
G-Time shook off the rust in his first night back, finishing with nine points, five assists and three boards in a 92-85 loss to the Bulls in Chicago on Saturday. Then on the second leg of the back-to-back, Gordon got his feet back under him, and scored 18 points while also contributing four rebounds, two helpers and two steals in a 94-85 win over the Bucks on Sunday evening in Milwaukee. After the win, Gordon said that while pleased with returning to form, he’s already turned his attention forward.
“Happy to get back on that track,” he said, “We’ve got three more important games coming up.”
Gordon also reported, after returning to play in Saturday’s game, that while he is doing better after taking nearly a week off to recover, his right foot injury won’t be going away completely any time soon. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the band that spans the length of the foot, connecting the heel and the toes and impacting the entire foot, making it a difficult to deal with injury. The longer it goes untreated, the inflammation can become even worse, causing debilitating foot pain.
“I’m doing a lot better…[it’s] just something I have to fight through,” he said. “Plantar fasciitis is something that’s going to continue to bother me until the end of the season. That’s just the nature of that injury. The best medicine for it is to rest and time, which is something we don’t necessarily have.”
That’s the reason why Gordon had simply been playing through the pain in the weeks after the All-Star break. With the Jazz in the thick of the playoff race, time to rest and recover from painful injury is a luxury G-Time and his teammates can ill afford. No. 20 was reluctant to take even a few days off last week to try to relieve some of that pain. After he put the team on his back on Sunday, March 13 with a 27-point performance to lead Utah to a much-needed win over the Sacramento Kings, Gordon could barely get around the locker room on the injured foot.
“It was painful, but we needed the win and glad we got it,” he said.
But following that game and after watching his teammate limp around the locker room, Jazz guard Rodney Hood encouraged Gordon to take a few days and recover. The second-year Jazzman dealt with the same injury in each of his feet last season, and combined the two injuries cost Hood nearly half of his rookie season. The young guard compared plantar fasciitis to walking on broken glass in a recent interview with the Deseret News and Gordon concurred with that assessment when quizzed about it.
“Especially when it gets super aggravated in the mornings it can be pretty painful,” he admitted. “I’ve been dealing with it for a while. It’s something I think can happen during the course of the season with so many minutes I’ve played and the grind. I’ve been getting treatment, trying to keep it right. It got to a point where it was too sore to probably play.”
G-Time knows that the soreness will return and likely worsen, and getting through it for the rest of the season isn’t going to be easy. It will be a matter of pain management going forward this regular season and hopefully through a postseason run for Utah, after which Gordon will be able to get the rest he needs to heal up. He also knows that he isn’t the only Jazz player dealing with injury. Seemingly every member of the team has missed time this season with an ailment they’re all still dealing with in some way or another. Hood recently missed time with a back injury but came back strong and that has inspired Gordon to attempt to do the same.
“I think we both realize what’s at stake here for us,” Hayward said. “We both want to win and be on the court. So I’m proud of him to fight through all the bangs and bruises he’s been going through. And I’m going to try to do the same thing.”
TOUGH RETURN IN CHICAGO
After missing his first two games of the season on Monday and Thursday in Utah — both Jazz wins — while dealing with the injury in his right foot, Gordon returned to the lineup on Saturday in Chicago, where the team began an important five-game road trip.
“It means a lot,” teammate Shelvin Mack said of G-Time’s return. “Gordon’s dedicated and he wants us to make the playoffs. He’s ignoring the pain in order to help us get there. So just going out onto the court means a lot to all of us.”
As could be expected after he took nearly a week off, H20 got off to a slow start. He did manage to knock down his first basket of the game late in the first quarter, a three-pointer that cut his squad’s deficit to six with 58.1 seconds remaining in the frame. After a slow quarter not just for Gordon, but for the Jazz collectively, Utah found themselves in a 25-19 hole going into the second.
The Jazz attempted to slug back in the second and Gordon pitched in where he could. Early in the second, after the Bulls briefly extended their lead to double digits, Joe Ingles drained an attempt from long range to get the Jazz going. Then, on the very next Utah possession, Ingles found G-Time driving to the basket and passed to a cutting No. 20, who finished the play with a nifty alley-oop to make it a 32-24 game just over two minutes into the quarter.
The two teams traded buckets for the majority of the quarter and it was a 50-40 game at halftime.
In the opening stages of the third quarter, G-Time made a nice feed to Derrick Favors, who finished with a driving layup to cut the deficit to eight. But the Bulls kept the Jazz at arms length for most of the frame. Toward the end of the quarter, with his team back down by 12, Gordon converted on a driving layup of his own to make it a 72-62 game with 2:13 remaining in the third. His teammates lauded G-Time’s effort, acknowledging what he was putting himself through just to be out on the court.
“Gordon’s a soldier, this means a lot to him and we can see that,” Jazz forward Trevor Booker said. “He’s a guy that’s putting it all on the line for us and we appreciate that.”
Gordon continued to help those teammates in a variety of different ways and near the end of the quarter he made a pair of alert passes on back-to-back possessions for assists to Raul Neto and Rudy Gobert. Those buckets both brought the Utah back within nine. But Chicago had a counter for every Jazz bucket and the Bulls still managed to pull out to a 12-point advantage entering the fourth.
Utah started to cut away at the deficit in the final frame but saw it balloon to 14 midway through the frame before they really got going. That left little time to come back and get a big road win in Chicago.
Gordon did manage to cut the Bulls lead down to six on a floating jump shot late in regulation and after a turnover by Derrick Rose, the Jazz had the ball with 45 seconds to go and a chance to cut the deficit to a single possession. But Chris Johnson misfired on a three and the Bulls got the rebound, forcing Johnson to foul Jimmy Butler. The Chicago star made one of two and that was enough to salt away the game, putting an end to Utah’s three-game winning streak.
After the loss, G-Time noted that the Jazz just didn’t have the touch needed to win on the road Saturday.
“We didn’t have a good shooting night tonight,” Hayward said. “I thought we struggled a little bit defensively, but we felt fine. I felt fine tonight. We all just had a bad shooting night. Hopefully tomorrow, we can play a lot better.”
JAZZ SHUT DOWN BUCKS
The Jazz quickly put that lack of shooting success in Chicago in their rearview and came out strong the next night in Milwaukee, and rebounded with a complete team effort to topple the Bucks.
Despite missing the previous two games, Gordon was good to go for the second half of the back-to-back, something that didn’t surprise coach Quin Snyder, who said between the two games that once No. 20 said he’d be good to go for Chicago, Snyder was fairly certain he’d have his star player in the lineup for the duration of the five-game trip.
“Schedule in the NBA dictates so much — as does health. Getting Gordon back is a boost going on this trip,” Snyder said. “If he’s going to go, he’s going to go. That’s how he’s played the whole year. He’s had this for a little while. No one’s been looking at him saying, ‘What’s wrong with Gordon?” because he’s just been playing. He’s been … Ironman.”
Like it had been in his first game back on Saturday, rust was a bit of an issue for G-Time early on. He managed just five points in the first half. But in a decisive third quarter, No. 20 scored 13 of his 18 points to help his squad go on a 22-6 run from a five-point deficit to a double-digit lead. They held strong from there and left Milwaukee with a 94-85 victory.
Gordon was assertive at the outset and actually opened the scoring for Utah with a trey, answering a bucket of the same variety from Milwaukee’s Jerryd Bayless. A few possessions later, G-Time made an impressive play when he misfired on a three, but followed his shot and got to the rim for a putback slam that helped the Jazz get out to a 10-5 lead. However, those were his last points until the third.
Utah led 23-22 after one and went back-and-forth with the Bucks in the second. G-Time was held scoreless in the quarter, but did pitch in a nice dime to a cutting Derrick Favors for a layup that doubled the Jazz lead to four with 3:22 left in the half. Shortly thereafter, Milwaukee used a brief scoring spurt to take the lead, but when Trey Lyles connected from three with 0.7 remaining in the second, Utah took a slim 42-41 lead into the locker room.
The Bucks went on an early run in the third. Greg Monroe finished with a reverse layup to vault Milwaukee out to a 49-44 lead with 9:21 left in the quarter, which ended up being its biggest lead of the contest. But from that point, there was no looking back for the Jazz as they scored 22 of the final 28 points of the quarter.
G-Time’s three-pointer brought the Jazz within two, and a couple possessions later, his running-layup tied the game at 51 with 7:08 left in the frame. Hayward continued to feel it and on the next series for the Jazz, as he converted on a pullup-jumper to make it a 53-53 game.
“I finally got a couple to fall there in the third, that was about the only quarter I did,” Hayward said. “Just happy that we won.”
That successful jumper from Gordon sparked the 22-6 run to close the quarter. The run was highlighted by three successful free throws from G20, one of which was a technical, and his third trey of the game, which put the Jazz up by 10 with 1:35 left in the quarter. Utah closed out the third up 73-59 and didn’t look back.
Utah continued to dominate the second half en route to victory. The fourth quarter was highlighted by Ingles, who shot 4-of-4 from downtown in the frame to help the Jazz come away with the big road win.
Hayward and the Jazz (34-36) have a significant matchup against the Houston Rockets (35-35) on Wednesday, who along with the Dallas Mavericks are 1.5 games up on the Jazz for the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference.
After dropping the first two games of the season to the Rockets, the Jazz were able to come away with an impressive 117-114 overtime win about a month ago and they have a chance to even the season series when the two teams take the floor in a couple days.
Houston will have a difficult road matchup ahead of them. The night before before squaring off against the Jazz, they’ll take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The game will tip off at on Wednesday at 6 p.m. MST from Toyota Center and will be aired on ROOT.
WESTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS – MAR. 21
1. y – Golden State Warriors (62-7)
2. y – San Antonio Spurs (59-10) 3 GB
3. y – Oklahoma City Thunder (48-22) 14.5 GB
4. Los Angeles Clippers (43-26) 19 GB
5. Memphis Grizzlies (40-30) 22.5 GB
6. Portland Trail Blazers (36-35) 27 GB
7. Houston Rockets (35-35) 27.5 GB
8. Dallas Mavericks (35-35) 27.5 GB
9. Utah Jazz (34-36) 28.5 GB
y – Clinched division
- Gordon Hayward not 100 percent but returns anyway (Deseret News, Mar. 19, 2016)
- Hayward helps Jazz beat Bucks, get fifth win in six games (AP, Mar. 20, 2016)
- Game Book: Jazz at Bucks (NBA, Mar. 20, 2016)
- Rose scores 22 to lead Bulls to win over Jazz (AP, Mar. 19, 2016)
- Game Book: Jazz at Bulls (NBA, Mar. 19, 2016)
- Team’s offense efficient in win over Bucks (Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 20, 2016)
- Jazz’s win over Bucks puts team in fun mood (Deseret News, Mar. 20, 2016)
- Utah Jazz fall to Chicago Bulls on the road (Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 20, 2016)
- Hayward’s teammates appreciate him playing through pain (Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 19, 2016)