Gordon Hayward leads Utah Jazz over Cleveland Cavaliers

By John Coon, The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 11, 2017 at 9:40 AM
| License Photo

SALT LAKE CITY -- If Gordon Hayward wanted to build a slam-dunk case for being named an all-star this season, his performance against the defending NBA champions should headline his resume and lead off his personal highlight reel.

Hayward played as close to a perfect game as anyone could have scripted in leading Utah to a 100-92 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday night. He found all sorts of ways and plays to make the Cavaliers miserable

The Jazz forward finished with 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting and collected eight rebounds. Is it enough to earn his first inclusion in an NBA all-star game? Hayward isn't worried about what he can't control. His focus is set squarely on helping Utah realize its full potential as a team.

"I feel like we got to move up a little higher in the standings," Hayward said. "I'm worrying about wins more than anything. That stuff usually comes when your team is winning."

Rodney Hood added 18 points to snap out of a recent shooting slump. Rudy Gobert added 11 points and 14 rebounds to notch his 27th double-double of the season. Six players reached double figures, helping Utah (24-16) win its third consecutive home game.

LeBron James scored 29 points and Kyrie Irving added 20 points to lead Cleveland. Tristan Thompson chipped in 12 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.

The Cavaliers (28-9) saw a three-game road winning streak snapped in part because they could not fully recover from a bad second quarter. Cleveland totaled 12 points after shooting 5 for 23 from the field during the period.

"The second quarter was bad basketball," James said. "We just couldn't make a shot and those guys got out in transition. That second quarter pretty much hurt us for the rest of the game."

Cleveland briefly rallied after halftime when James scored on three straight possessions -- draining a pair of 3-pointers and throwing down a transition dunk. His baskets gave the Cavaliers a 60-58 lead midway through the quarter.

Everything unraveled from there. Hayward answered with a series of baskets to fuel a 16-0 Utah run. He scored on three straight possessions -- highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers -- to help the Jazz retake the lead. Hayward then capped the spurt with a turnaround jumper in transition, putting Utah ahead 74-60 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said the rally required so much effort from his team, that it left them flat as the quarter wound down.

"We used so much energy in the third quarter," Lue said. "We should have started the game that way."

Cleveland closed the gap one last time late in the fourth quarter. A soaring dunk from Imam Shumpert cut Utah's lead to 96-90 with 2:36 left.

Hood answered by burying a corner 3-pointer over James on the other end. He put Utah back up by nine going into the final two minutes. The Cavaliers got no closer after missing their final three field goal attempts in that two-minute stretch.

Cleveland was ultimately undone by 18 turnovers that led to 23 points for Utah and 36.5 percent shooting from the field.

"When we get stops and we're getting deflections and we're being active, we match up well with anybody," Hood said. "When we're not doing those things, that's when teams go on runs and it's tough for us to win games. But when we're active and starting off games the right way, we do a good job."

Cleveland and Utah set a fast pace throughout the first quarter. The two teams traded transition baskets at light speed, combining for 17 fast-break points and 24 points in the paint in the quarter.

Things unraveled for the Cavaliers early in the second quarter. After Cleveland took a 33-30 lead when Kay Fielder drove for a layup, Utah answered with a 14-4 run to go back in front. Gobert scored on a pair of dunks to fuel the run and capped it off with a buzzer-beating contested jumper, giving the Jazz a 46-37 lead.

Utah did not ease off the gas pedal before halftime. George Hill and Hood buried back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite a 10-0 run to close the second quarter and give the Jazz a 56-41 halftime lead.

"I feel like we moved the ball really well," Gobert said. "We shared the ball and everybody had fun tonight."

NOTES:

-- Jazz C Rudy Gobert is one of only five NBA players since 2010-11 to finish with 10-plus rebounds in 25 or more straight games. Gobert owns Utah's franchise record with 25 straight 10-plus rebound games.

-- Cavs F LeBron James needed seven assists entering Tuesday to pass Tim Hardaway (7,095) for 15th on the NBA's all-time list. He finished with one and has 7,090 for his career.

-- Cleveland is the only NBA team that is undefeated (24-0) this season when tied or leading after three quarters.

-- Jazz F Gordon Hayward scored 20 or more points in 24 of 33 games this season. He is one of 15 players to reach that mark in 2016-17.

-- The Cavaliers-Jazz game was broadcast live in virtual reality through NBA League Pass. It is the first of two Jazz games on the VR broadcast schedule. The second one is Utah at Oklahoma City on Feb. 28.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more news from UPI.com
Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories