By the time David West wrapped his arms around Gordon Hayward to foul him with a giant hug, the Jazz guard probably needed one.
In what was just another torturous performance against his hometown team, Hayward’s night went from efficient and balanced to disastrous in Saturday’s eventual 114-110 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers. But in the final seconds, Hayward’s night took another strange, but ultimately satisfying turn when he sprained his right shoulder fighting through a screen to get to Paul George. What happened next, the scorekeeper saw as a blocked shot but Hayward later admitted — and video replays showed — that George may have simply lost control of the 3-pointer that would have tied the game at 110.
“I don’t even know if I blocked it,” said Hayward, who answered questions with his arm in a thick black brace. “It might have just slipped. I can’t even remember.”
The scene got even wackier, and ended with Indiana coach Frank Vogel going apoplectic on the sideline as Paul Millsap sank the game-sealing free throws with 1.4 seconds remaining. Vogel’s gripe? That Millsap’s inbounds pass went off the backboard, although officials told Millsap that the ball was live because it hit the bottom of the backboard, not the back — which would have been out of bounds and given the Pacers another chance to tie or win.
A night after a listless 102-84 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles, the Jazz (24-20) came out energized and led 45-39 in the second quarter, where Hayward first provided a spark.
Their lead was lost and regained, and by the 1:43 mark of the fourth quarter, the Jazz led 97-89. However, they were outscored 9-1. In the final minute, Hayward committed three turnovers: first with a bad pass off the pick-and-roll, then giving up a steal to George Hill. The turnover that could have been most costly, however, came with two-tenths of a second remaining near midcourt when Hayward was trapped and lost the ball to West in a game tied at 98.
“We trust him to put the ball in his hands and make plays,” coach Tyrone Corbin said.
Out of timeouts, the Pacers (26-18) had just enough time for a lob play, but Hill’s pass to 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert just barely exceeded the center’s fingertips.
In overtime, Hayward acknowledged, “my teammates bailed me out for sure.”
Al Jefferson scored eight of his game-high 25 points in the extra period. Millsap finished the game with 21 points, while Hayward’s 15-point night was marred by as many turnovers (six) as assists.
For the Jazz post players, it was a complete reversal from Dec. 19’s 104-84 loss in Indiana when Jefferson, Millsap and starting small forward Marvin Williams combined for 17 points and were outscored 52-28 in the paint. Saturday, those three were good for 52 points, and the Jazz won the paint battle, albeit narrowly: 60-56. Hibbert later said, “I got my ass kicked in the post tonight.”
It was likely Hayward’s most impressive performance against the team he supported as he grew up in Brownsburg, Ind., just outside of Indianapolis. The worst was certainly on Dec. 19, when he scored just eight points, slogged through a 2-of-6 shooting performance, was limited to 13 minutes and committed five turnovers.Next Page »