Utah’s bread and butter this season has been defense, with Gordon Hayward playing a key part in the NBA’s best defense, limiting opposing teams to just 96.3 points per game.
While the Jazz’s defensive status quo held up on Thursday night, it was their offense that went missing in a 91-83 defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Utah shot just under 42 percent from the field and under 24 percent from behind the arc.
G-Time finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists, but received heavy praise from Cleveland’s head coach.
“He’s gotten a lot better,” Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “He’s always been a good player, a good two-way player who plays both ends of the floor. But this year, he’s physically gotten a lot stronger. He’s getting a lot of and-ones at the rim. He’s dunking on people and finishing through contact, which he didn’t do a lot before. I’ve always liked him. But he’s put the work in and made himself a better player.”
Even with a down game for his standards, G-Time is receiving heavy consideration to make his first All-NBA team.
“Gordon deserves it,” Jazz forward Derrick Favors said. “He’s been great for us all year. He’s made big shots whenever we’ve needed it, and he’s been there for us. He definitely deserves it.”
Utah is currently on pace to make the playoffs, something that they have not done since the 2011-12 season. While Gordon would love to make an All-NBA team, it the playoffs and his team that are motivating him.
“It would be really cool to accomplish something like that,” Hayward said. “All-NBA is something I never thought I’d be able to achieve. But right now my focus is on what I’m doing with the team. I’m trying to go out there and get wins.”
Utah has been stacking up enough wins to compete for one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference. But even though Gordon is amid an outstanding season individually and from a team outlook, it’s still possible to be humbled in this league. It took a vintage LeBron James performance, 33 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, to beat the Jazz.
“That’s why LeBron is who he is,” Hayward said. “He took over the game when we were right there in the fourth.”
Up next the Jazz travel to Illinois to face off against the Chicago Bulls.