Before Wednesday night’s matchup against the Houston Rockets, Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz had lost six contests since mid-December against Western Conference playoff teams.
But that all changed, as the Jazz captured their fourth straight victory, defeating the West’s No. 3 team 115-108.
“It’s confidence. Shows that we can do it,” Gordon said. “We haven’t played well at all against any of those teams. For us to get a win, it’s like finally seeing the ball go through the hoop.”
G-Time saw the ball go through the hoop plenty Wednesday on a night where the Jazz needed every point with George Hill and Derrick Favors out of commission. Gordon tied center Rudy Gobert with a team-high 23 points. No. 20 was an efficient 8-of-13 from the field while adding seven rebounds and four assists.
G’s biggest quarter came in the third, where he scored 11 points. Gordon finished 3-of-6 from 3-point range, but much of his damage was done off the dribble, attacking the rim.
“That’s great. That’s what we want from him,” Gobert said. “We know he can shoot, but when he’s aggressive and about to finish strong on guys, he’s on another level.”
That has become the foundation for Gordon’s game in this season more than ever.
“He’s definitely been more aggressive attacking the rim,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
While Gordon was attacking the rim on the offensive end, his fellow All-Star James Harden was doing the same thing on the other. The MVP candidate finished with a solid 35-point night, but the Jazz dealt him a goose egg beyond the arc, where Harden was 0-for-8.
G-Time led a terrific 3-point defensive effort by Utah. The Jazz limited the Rockets to just 8-of-32 (25 percent) from distance. Utah was up by double-digits for most of the game, but the Rockets rallied back in the fourth to make the game close.
Gordon disrupted the Houston rally around the 3:00 mark. The Rockets had pulled to within six and Harden was driving on a fast break, determined to make it two. Harden powered his way to the rack and hoisted a layup, but No. 20 game from nowhere and erased the attempt.
Two minutes later, Harden did bring Houston to within four, knocking down three free throws with 1:16 to go to make it a 110-106 contest. But the usual suspects brought home the victory for the Jazz. G-Time dished to Gobert on a fast break for an easy jam to stretch the gap back to six, and Gordon sunk two clutch free throws with 24 seconds to go to put the game away.
Hayward did tweak his ankle toward the end of the game but isn’t too concerned that it is anything serious.
“I rolled it a little bit,” Hayward said. “I wanted to go out and re-tape it and worry about it after the game, but I needed to get out. It was bugging me. … It’ll be fine. I’m not worried about it.”
Up next the Jazz will travel to Oklahoma City to face another MVP candidate in Russell Westbrook.