Hayward's 37 points lift Jazz past OKC Thunder
Facing the league's top scorer, Gordon Hayward did his best Kevin Durant impersonation.
"You always bring it against the best. He's an unbelievable player," Hayward said.
Hayward scored a career-high 37 points, including Utah's final 17 points, to overcome Kevin Durant's 48 points and lead the Jazz to a 112-101 win over Oklahoma City today.
"Once you hit a couple of tough ones then the basket starts looking pretty big. You feel like you can almost throw up anything and it will go in," Hayward said.
After the Thunder sliced a 24-point Jazz lead to 99-94, Hayward made five straight jumpers - two of them 3-pointers - as he personally outscored the Thunder 17-7 to clinch Utah's fourth straight home win.
"How about Gordon! He was huge. I mean we needed every last basket he made for us," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said.
The Utah forward made 13 of 16 field goals and added 11 rebounds and seven assists to offset Durant, who matched this season's NBA high scoring total that he set against the Timberwolves on Saturday.
"I was in the zone a little bit tonight. It's finally good to be there. It's been a rough season shooting for me," said Hayward, who has been taking hundreds of shots late into the night at the practice facility during this home stand.
Hayward said he noticed on film that he'd been leaning back and fading away as he shot jumpers. He also felt he looked out of rhythm in his shooting motion. His accuracy had dropped below 40 percent before three straight games of making at least half his attempts.
"He got whatever he wanted. He was moving, cutting and getting everyone involved, and then it opened up for him," Durant said.
Without Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, Durant took the ball nearly every possession in the fourth quarter. He missed all four final-period field-goal attempts but made 11 of 13 from the line in the final 12 minutes. Westbrook is out with a knee injury and Ibaka didn't dress because of flu-like symptoms.
Derrick Favors had 15 and Marvin Williams scored 12 to help snap the Thunder's eight-game road winning streak, two off the franchise record of 10 straight. Richard Jefferson, Enes Kanter and Trey Burke all had 10 points.
The Jazz easily drove the lane for draw-and-kicks, which led to a bevy of open jump shots. The Thunder looked visibly winded, playing at 4250 feet above sea level at the tail end of a three-game-in-four-night stretch.
Favors capped an 11-2 run with a jumper to give the Jazz their largest lead at 84-60. The margin is Utah's second largest of the season, just behind a 28-point lead the Jazz had in Sacramento in a 122-101 win on December 11.
But Durant kept attacking and the Jazz started missing after shooting well above 60 percent for much of the game. Utah finished at 58.8 percent and the team with the worst record in the Western Conference beat the top club in the conference.
The atmosphere turned testy in the fourth quarter when the Thunder fought back. Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks got a technical for crossing midcourt to protest a call with 10:16 to play. Moments later, official Zach Zarba prohibited a Jazz fan from throwing a ball in the air behind the basket while Durant shot free throws. Then Kanter was whistled for another technical with 9:19 remaining.
The Thunder used a 7-0 surge - all on free throws - to draw within 92-82.
Oklahoma City's comeback strangled the free-flowing Jazz offense for a time. Eight turnovers in the fourth quarter allowed the Thunder to trim the lead to 99-94 after Durant's two foul shots with 4:50 left.
"We fought. We fought, but we can't play just one quarter every game. We made too many mental mistakes and they capitalized on them," Durant said.
Ibaka, a 6-foot-10 forward, had not missed a game this season and is averaging career highs in points (14.1) and rebounds (8.7).
"We were missing one of the best presences at the rim, if not the best, in the league," Reggie Jackson said. "He cleans up a lot of our mistakes."
Outside of Durant, only Jackson reached double-figures in scoring with 20 and the Thunder shot 17.6 percent from outside the arc (6 of 34).
Jackson started for an injured Westbrook in all three matchups with the Jazz this season, and the Thunder won the first two. Oklahoma City had taken four straight and 10 of 12 in the series before Tuesday night.
"When you give a team confidence, it changes the whole game," Durant said.
Six of the Thunder's eight losses have been by eight or fewer points, and this one seemed destined to be just the second blowout defeat before Oklahoma City's comeback.
Down the stretch, Hayward looked a bit like Durant with floating jumpers, long 3s and drives to the hoop.
"G had a phenomenal game. We rode him to the win," Burks said.