Gordon Hayward scored a season-high 33 points on Saturday night against the Charlotte Hornets, and he made a run at his season best again Monday night.
The 2017 Western Conference All-Star poured in 30 points on 12-of-18 (66.7 percent) shooting from the field, adding seven rebounds and five assists along the way as the Utah Jazz claimed a statement victory on the road, trouncing the Atlanta Hawks 120-95.
Gordon now has seven 30-point games this season, which ties a career-high. With 30 games still to go, it appears Hayward should have no trouble setting a new milestone. After another big game, he talked about all that has gone into his tremendous 2016-17 campaign.
“That was a focus for me going into the offseason, was finding easier ways to score,” Hayward said. “It’s a big credit to my teammates, to Coach, for putting me in those situations.”
It was a quick start for G-Time, who scored 15 points in the first quarter as the Jazz stormed out to an early lead. He started his night by splashing one of his two 3-pointers on the night. His second trey didn’t come until late in the third quarter, but he added a conventional 3-point play later in the first, muscling his way through the Atlanta defense to earn a bucket and one. The Jazz led 27-14 when Gordon checked out at the 3:00 mark and held an eight-point advantage at the end of the first.
“Hayward got off to a good start,” Atlanta guard Malcolm Delaney said. “He had a good first half and everybody else picked up after him.”
Atlanta fought back to within two late in the first quarter, but Gordon converted on a layup to make it a 54-50 game at the break. The Jazz were plus-18 with No. 20 on the floor Monday night.
“I’m finding easier ways to score,” Gordon said. “I’m getting cuts, I’m getting layups, coming off screens and they’re finding me for some easy stuff, easy dunks.”
Utah quickly turned things back around in the third quarter. Gordon knocked down an elbow jumper for the first points of the second half. Later in the half he dropped home a layup off a Boris Diaw assist to spark a 12-2 run. Tim Hardaway Jr. ended that spurt with a three, but Gordon responded with a trey of his own. That bucket, plus a steal by Gordon on the ensuing Atlanta possession, fueled a 7-0 run for Utah. A strong sequence by Derrick Favors and Joe Johnson in the final two minutes of the period made it a 91-73 Jazz advantage going into the fourth.
“We locked down defensively,” Hayward said. “We forced them into some tough shots.”
The Jazz still held a 100-84 lead with Gordon checked back in for the fourth. No. 20 closed his outstanding night emphatically, splitting the Atlanta defense for a dunk. He added two at the free throw line before checking out with 3:38 to go, giving him an even 30 points in 30 minutes on the floor.
Hayward and the Jazz will look to stay hot on Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.