New Orleans • Gordon Hayward already knew what Eric Gordon could do.
The Jazz forward had played the Hornets guard in high school and during hot summer days. Gordon’s difficult to guard, tougher with the ball in his hands, and dangerous as soon as he finds an open lane.
Hayward got an up-close glimpse of his respected Indianapolis rival Friday. Gordon recorded a team-high 25 points, and single-handedly closed down Utah’s night during a 96-85 defeat to New Orleans.
“He did a good job of attacking the basket and we made him take some difficult shots and he was able to knock them down,” Hayward said.
Coach Tyrone Corbin said the Jazz tried to trap Gordon and take the ball out of his hands. But with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft alternately splitting double teams and drilling long-range step-back jumpers, Utah ultimately had no answer.
“It was just one-on-one,” Corbin said. “He made big shots. He is what he is. He is a good one-on-one player. … He made some plays for them and we just didn’t respond.”
Ninety minutes before tipoff Friday, Jazz forward Paul Millsap sat on a trainer’s table in his uniform, his sprained right wrist heavily bandaged.
Millsap participated in shooting drills about 70 minutes before tipoff, beginning with five-foot standstill shots and ending with minor spin moves while working with Utah assistant Jeff Hornacek.
After a light five-minute session, Millsap walked off the court and gave a thumbs up, soon telling a reporter he planned to play.
Did he ever.
The Jazz’s heart and soul again let adrenaline take over, scoring a game-high 27 points, with 25 delivered through three quarters.
“Once you get in that zone and you decide to not let nothing bother and hold you back, you can accomplish whatever,” Millsap said.
When reports filtered out early Friday that New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson planned to buy the Hornets, coach Monty Williams was cautiously optimistic.
When Williams learned Benson’s purchase had been approved by the NBA, the Hornets leader tried to stick to his normal pregame routine.
He ate Subway, napped and focused on the Jazz.
But Williams acknowledged he’s thrilled about New Orleans’ new era, and he spent the majority of his pregame interview answering questions about the Hornets’ sale.
“I think everyone’s excited for the future,” Williams said.
Check The Tribune’s Jazz Notes blog at sltrib.com/Blogs/jazznotes for exclusive news, interviews, video and analysis.