Gordon Hayward is ready for playoff basketball, and he proved that on Friday night when he scored a career-high 39 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 120-113 Utah Jazz victory.
“It was fun out there tonight,” Hayward said. “This was a game we felt like we really, really needed to have.”
The last time the Jazz played the Timberwolves it was a night to forget, as the T’Wolves came into Utah and won by 27. Since then, the Jazz are 8-0 at home.
“You never like to lose at home,” Gordon said. “You feel like you’re letting down the fans. You feel like you’re disappointing the fans, especially with the way we played.”
G-Time was electric, shooting 14-of-22 from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He also added five assists, three rebounds and two steals.
“He was just relentless on both ends of the floor,” Joe Johnson said, “and we needed that tonight.”
Most impressively, Hayward scored seven points in the final 90 seconds of the game, and the Jazz needed all of those points.
The first two gave Utah a three-point lead. Points three, four and five gave the Jazz a four-point lead after the Timberwolves brought it back to within one. And points six and seven sealed the deal for a Utah victory.
“It worked tonight,” Gordon said of Utah’s late success. “We’ve had other nights where it hasn’t been working. We need to learn from nights like tonight and try to emulate them, try to remember back.”
It was the second consecutive game Hayward scored at least 30 points, and it has been a season to remember for the veteran Jazz forward.
“A special one,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said when asked about Hayward’s season. “I think people here know it. That’s why they’ve got billboards of him going up apparently. He’s being rewarded for the investment. His whole heart is in it. He’s all in.”
With the win, the Jazz clinched its first Northwest Division title since the 2007-08 season.
TOO MUCH LILLARD IN PORTLAND
The Jazz played the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night, and it was Damian Lillard who stole the show with 59 points as the Jazz fell 101-86.
Gordon finished the game with a team-high 21 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and from downtown, but Utah simply couldn’t stop Portland’s electric guard.
G-Time got the Jazz on the board early, scoring the team’s first five points of the game. It was a balanced night for Hayward, who scored 10 points in the first half and 11 in the second.
The Jazz are currently tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the fourth seed in the Western Conference with two games remaining. If the Jazz somehow find a way to get home court advantage in the first round, they’ll have earned it, having to play the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs in the final two outings.