Gordon Hayward hasn’t been forced to come back from injuries often in his basketball career.
On Tuesday night, however, he did fine.
After missing 10 games because of a strained shoulder, Hayward scored 17 points, grabbed three rebounds and handed out four assists to help the Jazz defeat Golden State, 115-101.
Hayward was injured on Jan. 26 in the final moments over a 114-110 overtime win over Indiana, but he obviously kept himself in reasonable shape.
He played almost 25 minutes against the Warriors, only two less than his season average.
Hayward credited the Jazz training staff for his complete recovery and said, “I wanted to make sure, when I came back, I didn’t have that time when I was rusty or winded. I’m going to continue working and try to get back up to full speed.”
Hayward did not know what to expect during his first game in nearly four weeks.
“I just wanted to go out there and compete — just play hard and go a long as I could without getting winded and, if I did, sub out,” he said.
Coach Tyrone Corbin was impressed by Hayward’s performance.
“He is who he is,” Corbin said. “He was excited to be back and I was able to play him a little longer than normal — for a guy just coming back — because there were some time-outs in the middle of his early minutes.”
Hayward entered the game with 4:35 remaining in the first quarter.
Two minutes later, he drove into the lane and collided with Andris Biedrins, Golden State’s 240-pound center.
“Just trying to make a play,” Hayward said. “ You can’t be hesitant after an injury. You can’t be afraid of being re-injured. That’s why I’ve got the [shoulder] pad on anyway.”
Hayward made two free throws and, in the opening minutes of the second quarter, remained aggressive on offense.
He dunked, buried a 3-pointer and assisted on Derrick Favors’ dunk as the Jazz built a 38-26 lead.
According to Corbin, the big hit by Biedrins likely helped Hayward get going.
“I thought he was OK from there,” he said. “I was watching to see how he responded and I thought he did a great job.”
Marvin Williams hopes the return of Hayward and continued improvement of Mo Williams, who is sidelined after thumb surgery, will help the Jazz during their final 27 games.
“To see a guy start to get healthy, especially coming down the stretch, is really exciting,” Williams said. “Obviously, guys have been banged up this year. … Hopefully, we’ll be playing with the full deck towards the end of the season.”
A closer look
• Utah’s Gordon Hayward returns from a 10-game absence caused by a shoulder injury.
• Hayward finishes with 17 points and four assists in Utah’s 115-101 win over Golden State.
• Hayward also contributes three rebounds, two blocks and 2-for-3 shooting on 3-pointers.