EMPTYING THE NOGGIN—Hayward carries it home

  • Gordon Hayward was out of this world. He scored 17 straight points to close the game, and the Jazz beat the Thunder. He did it all. He hit back-to-back threes to start the run, and then he went to everything in his bag. The Thunder tried every defender they had, including 7-foot-tall Perry Jones, and none of them worked.
  • Hayward’s night was not just scoring—he led the team with 11 rebounds and seven assists as well.
  • This is a big night for Gordon. He went head-to-head with the best in the league and took his team to victory. This is what he expects out of himself, and he is growing into the roll.
  • I have wondered if part of Gordon’s struggles was simply fatigue. Thurl and Ron, who know more than I do, don’t think that was the case. But as the schedule has slowed down, he has hit his stride and has linked three straight games of 50% or better shooting and looks considerably different on the floor.
  • The other angle is that Hayward is following the trajectory of his previous years as well.
  • The Jazz looked rested and prepared. They moved the ball. They hit open shots, and they had the Thunder playing on their heels early in the game. After shooting 12-for-17 in the first quarter, Utah went 9-for-16 in the second quarter and went on to shoot 59% to become the first team to shot over 50% against the Thunder all season. The Jazz were crisp, the execution was strong and the ball movement was really good.
  • Alec Burks and Enes Kanter had important roles tonight. Burks drove the basket and made some plays when the offense needed one-on-one play, and Kanter got the best of Steven Adams in the post tonight.
  • Brandon Rush got back in the rotation tonight with 10 minutes.
  • Tyrone decided to have Jefferson and Marvin guard Durant, which left Gordon to worry about the offensive end of the floor and not get in foul trouble or get fatigued on the defensive end. Big decision by the coaching staff.
  • The Thunder were without Westbrook and Ibaka, and no one came along for the ride with Durant. Durant didn’t have a field goal in the fourth quarter—instead, he lived at the line all quarter. He matched his season high and the season league high with 48 points, but other than a feckless 20 from Reggie Jackson the Thunder got little help from the rest of the crew.
  • Utah’s starting guards had 17 rebounds and 13 assists.
  • Fun night at the arena. Greg Miller tweeted after the game that we got a glimpse of the Jazz’s future tonight, and he likes what he sees. Hard to argue with that.