Hayward rocks the house
Rookie Gordon Hayward saved his best for last.
Playing with poise, tenacity and confidence far beyond his 21 years, Hayward scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter Wednesday night to lead the Jazz past Denver, 107-103.
Hayward made 12-of-17 shots and finished with the most points by a Utah rookie since Jerry Eaves scored 35 on March 16, 1983, at Detroit.
"It's a tremendous night for him to see him receive the rewards for all the work he's done all year," said coach Tyrone Corbin.
" He got better, and this is a prime example. His hard work set him up for a lot of success at the end of the season when he got some more time on the floor. I'm extremely happy for him."
Brought into the hallway outside the locker room to give the mob of media seeking a postgame interview more room to work, Hayward turned the corner said, "Man."
You can say that again.
Hayward scored 14 points in the first half, despite foul trouble.
He had 10 points in the final 11:16, including seven of Utah's final nine.
Hayward's 3-pointer with 3:40 remaining just 16 seconds after he re-entered the game gave the Jazz a 99-97 lead.
Calling his big effort in the season finale a result of "confidence" and "motivation," Hayward added, "There's nothing better than game-time experience playing the game. That really helps you out.
"You hit a couple of shots and that helps your confidence. You put a couple of games like that in a row, and it really does a lot of stuff for you."
Hayward didn't just score from the perimeter. He went inside, too.
With 2:58 left in the third quarter, Hayward entered the ball to Al Jefferson and cut down the lane.
Jefferson's passed back to Hayward, who dunked over two defenders and was fouled.
His three-point play gave the Jazz an 82-73 lead and, Jefferson said, deserved mention as one of the top-10 plays of the day on ESPN's "SportsCenter."
"Oh, man," Jefferson said. "He just had an unbelievable game, and to do what he did dunk the ball in traffic like that â¦
I [know] it's going to be a top 10."