It took until the next morning for Gordon Hayward to fully understand what had happened.
"I didn’t realize it was that many in a row," the Jazz swingman said before taking the practice floor Wednesday. "It didn’t feel like it."
Gordon Hayward scored a career-high 37 points Tuesday night, including Utah’s final 17 of the game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Miami’s LeBron James is the only other player to score his team’s final 17 points (or more); it happened in a 2012 game against the Nets.
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Jazz coach Ty Corbin thought back over his time on the bench, back to Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Memo Okur, in search of a similar performance but couldn’t find one. Those were guys "who could get on a run," he said.
But none of them had a run quite like this.
In helping the Utah Jazz to a 112-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, Hayward had a career night. He dropped in 37 points on 13-of-16 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out seven assists. And with the game in the balance, Hayward scored his team’s final 17 points to secure victory. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, LeBron James (in a 2012 game against the Nets) is the only other player in history to do it over the last five years.
"He pretty much carried us in that fourth quarter," guard Brandon Rush said.
Hayward’s fourth-quarter run started with a missed 17-foot jumper just a few seconds after checking in for Rush. It would be the last time he missed from the field.
With the Jazz up 10, Hayward ran off a Derrick Favors screen, driving to the lane and colliding with Derek Fisher, sending the former Jazz guard to the ground as the ball bounced twice on the rim and in. He missed the free throw, but had given the Jazz a 12 point lead with 6:56 to go.
At the 5:35 mark, Hayward hit a long 2 from the right angle.
But the Thunder, behind a 48-point game from Kevin Durant, kept closing in. The Jazz had led by as much as 24 points, but Durant cut the lead to five on a pair of free throws with under five minutes to play. Hayward answered right back. On the ensuing possession, he gave Thunder forward Nick Collison a push and stepped back behind the 3-point line, hitting a huge shot to steal back momentum.
"It was crazy," said Jazz guard Diante Garrett, who jumped up from the bench with each score. "It was funny, ‘cause I’m like, ‘He’s going against the No. 1 scorer in the league’ and I’m like, ‘He’s givin’ it to him. He’s giving it to whoever had him.’ He was ballin’."
The next trip down the floor, Jazz forward Richard Jefferson kicked the ball out to Hayward on the left angle. Hayward jab-stepped hard right, sending Oklahoma City’s Jeremy Lamb helplessly out of the way as he raised up and hit another 3.
With 2:34 on the clock, Hayward crossed over Fisher, giving him the space to hit from 21 feet.
At 2:09, Hayward was fouled by Perry Jones III. He hit one of two. Free throws were one of his only shortcomings down the stretch, knocking down just one of his five attempts.
"That was easy money," he said ruefully on Wednesday. "I could have had those."
With just under two minutes go, Hayward curled around an Alec Burks screen, took a pass from Burke and hit from the free-throw line. A minute later, he got his arm in the way of a Collison pass, and ran the length of the court for the dunk, his and his team’s final bucket of the night.
"It was crazy," Jazz center Enes Kanter said of the performance. "[But] he’s got enough talent to do it every night."
Overall, Hayward’s field goal percentage is down two points from a year ago (41.5 percent compared to 43.5 percent), and at 31.7 percent from 3, he’s nearly a full 10 points down from 2012-13.
But over his last three games, Hayward seems to have turned a corner. He’s averaging 27 points, six rebounds and five assists. And he’s shooting better than 60 percent from the floor and 64 percent from 3.
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