Gordon Hayward started fast, and the rest of the Utah Jazz followed, riding a 19-point halftime lead to an Eastern Conference road victory, coming on the first night of a critical back-to-back.
G-Time scored 10 first-quarter points and finished with a team-high 25 points and flirted with a triple-double, tallying nine rebounds and six assists to guide the Jazz to a 97-83 win over the Detroit Pistons.
“I’ll give them a lot of credit. They’re really good and I thought their defense was very intense and good,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said of the Jazz. “Their ball movement was outstanding in the first half.”
That ball movement was on display right from the jump. Gordon got things started by banging a 3-ball up top off a feed by Rudy Gobert for Utah’s first points of the night. No. 20 then was on the other end of the equation, delivering a cross-court pass to Joe Johnson for a wide-open corner trey.
“We’re just hard to guard,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of guys who can score and penetrate and make plays for one another. It makes the game easier for us, but defensively for our opponent, it definitely makes it harder.”
Gordon’s strong first quarter continued off of one of his nine boards. After crashing the glass, he took the ball up the floor and found a pocket around a Gobert screen for a short pull-up jumper. Next came a triple by No. 20 off a Johnson setup. The final bucket of the quarter for G-Time came off a beautiful between-the-legs pass by Gobert, which gave way for a driving layup by Hayward.
Utah led by nine after the first quarter and continued to add to its lead in the second, and Gordon capped the half with a steal of Reggie Jackson, leading to a George Hill layup on the other end and a 54-35 halftime lead. The Jazz led by double-digits for most of the night, and Hayward’s eight points in the final six minutes of the game, including two three-pointers, made sure they didn’t get any closer than that.
In addition to his team-high 25 points, Hayward also finished with a game-high plus-30 rating. It was Utah’s sixth win over the last seven games.
Utah’s playoff seeding battle continues on Thursday night against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
“We’ll have our hands full,” Gordon said. “But I’m glad that we’re going out there after a win like tonight . I think that gives you a little bit of confidence. It definitely makes you feel better on those long flights out east.”