For the second time in less than a week, Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz almost knocked off one of the best teams in the league.

Unfortunately for G-Time and Co., the San Antonio Spurs survived a furious 16-point fourth quarter rally and hung on to beat the Jazz by a final score of 88-86.

After nearly overcoming a top-notch team in the Spurs and pushing the Golden State Warriors to the brink in an overtime loss last Wednesday, Gordon and his teammates are proving that they can hang with any team in the NBA.

“Yeah, I think it shows we can compete with those guys,” Hayward said. “We’ve got to find ways to close those games out, but I’m proud of the effort tonight.”

San Antonio Spurs v Utah Jazz

G20 nailed a huge turnaround jump shot to tie the game at 86, and he turned around and played great defense on San Antonio’s star wing Kawhi Leonard. But Leonard made a tough shot over G’s outstretched arm, hitting the go-ahead jumper with 4.9 seconds to play. Rodney Hood had a chance on the final possession but his potential winning three-pointer at the buzzer hit the front of the iron.

Despite the loss, Utah still holds a half-game lead over the Houston Rockets for eighth place in the West and trail the Dallas Mavericks by only a half-game for the No. 7 spot. Dallas and Houston will square off Wednesday night. Hayward was engaged in a challenging matchup against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Leonard and finished with 12 points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal.

H20 helped the Jazz get on the board with a nice dish to Shelvin Mack who knocked down a floating jumper the tie the game at two. On the next possession, No. 20 finished an impressive alley-oop layup off a feed from Rudy Gobert.

A few minutes later Hayward helped tie the game at 10 on a driving slam with 6:53 left in the first. But after the Jazz got out to an 18-12 edge, the Spurs went on a 13-2 push to close out the frame and take a 25-20 lead into the second.

The trend continued and San Antonio jumped out to a 31-20 advantage early in the second quarter. Utah went on a 9-2 run midway through to make it a two-point game. After two quarters, the Jazz were right there, trailing by just five.

San Antonio Spurs v Utah Jazz

After being held scoreless in the second, G-Time got to the line to start the third and hit one of two freebies to bring the Jazz within four. A couple possessions later, Hayward drew contact from beyond the arc and was awarded three foul shots.

The reliable No. 20 drained all three of his attempts from the charity stripe but the Jazz still trailed 46-41. Gordon helped Utah get within one with 6:44 left in the quarter on a turnaround fadeaway, but the Spurs went on a 17-4 run to close out the third, and Utah found itself in a 67-53 hole entering the final frame.

But despite facing a 14-point hole with 12 minutes to play against the top defensive team in the NBA, Utah kept battling. The Jazz had missed their first 11 attempts from deep to start the contest before Joe Ingles went off and reversed that script. After Draymond Green’s layup to start the fourth put the Spurs up by 16, the Australian forward gave the home crowd life as he rattled off three triples in an 11-0 Jazz run to help cut the deficit to five with 9:33 remaining.

“Joe came in and gave us a huge lift,” Head Coach Quin Snyder said. “I thought our defense helped us stay in it until we could hit a few shots.”

With Leonard occupied guarding Gordon, Rodney Hood did the majority of the scoring for the Jazz down the stretch. His 10 straight points late in the game gave Utah an 84-83 lead with about a minute to play. Tony Parker responded to Hood’s go-ahead bucket with a trifecta on the following possession to put the Spurs back up two.

G drove hard and spun back, shaking two defenders underneath, then calmly knocked down a short turnaround to tie the game at 86 game with 27.7 remaining.

Utah was in a great position when Gobert swatted Parker’s shot out of bounds with 6.7 left on the ensuing possession, but Kyle Anderson found Leonard on the inbound who got the shot off over a stretched Hayward to take an 88-86 lead.

The Jazz had a chance to win the game on the final possession, but after shooting 5-of-5 from long range in the quarter, Hood’s attempt from downtown at the buzzer fell short to seal the deal on a San Antonio victory—No. 1,000 in the storied career of forward Tim Duncan.

“We feel like we can play with any team, especially on this home court,” Hood explained. “We’ve just got to continue to grind. It seems like a recurring thing, but we just have to find out the little things we can do.”

NEXT UP

Hayward and the Jazz (39-39) will remain at home to take on the Los Angeles Clippers (49-28) on Friday night.

Earlier in the season on Nov. 26, the Jazz came away with a 102-91 victory on the road over the Clips. On Dec. 26, Utah lost a tough 109-104 battle to L.A. in Salt Lake City where G-Time had a game-high 28 points in the defeat.

Friday’s showdown will tip off at 7 p.m. from Vivint Smart Home Arena and will be aired on ROOT.

WESTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS – 4/6

1. y – Golden State Warriors (69-9)

2. y – San Antonio Spurs (65-12) 3.5 GB

3. y – Oklahoma City Thunder (54-24) 15 GB

4. x – Los Angeles Clippers (49-28) 19.5 GB

5. Memphis Grizzlies (42-36) 27 GB

6. Portland Trail Blazers (42-37) 27.5 GB

7. Dallas Mavericks (39-38) 29.5 GB

8. Utah Jazz (39-39) 30 GB

——-Playoff cutoff——-

9. Houston Rockets (38-39) 30.5 GB

y – Clinched division

x – Clinched playoff berth

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