Minneapolis • Ty Corbin went to his bench early Saturday, looking to infuse some life into his sluggish team.
The Utah Jazz coach ran out Brandon Rush, Diante Garrett and John Lucas III. Seldom-used rookie Ian Clark even saw action in the first half. As he looked down the bench, Corbin would have loved to see Gordon Hayward dressed in his No. 20 uniform.
Hayward has missed five straight games with a hip flexor injury. The Jazz’s leading scorer hasn’t played since scoring his team’s 17 straight points to close out a win over Oklahoma City on Jan. 7.
"Any night the way we are right now it hurts to have one of our main guys out," Corbin said after Saturday’s blowout loss to the Timberwolves. "We had been weathering the storm pretty good, but we need Gordon."
Utah has gone 2-3 in Hayward’s absence. Thanks to high-scoring wins over Denver and Detroit, the Jazz offensive numbers are actually up without Hayward. Utah has scored 106 points per 100 possessions over the past five games, compared with 99.4 overall this season.
But in disappointing losses against Cleveland and Minnesota, Hayward’s contributions were sorely missed.
"We need everybody and Gordon is a big key. We’re waiting on him," said Jazz forward Jeremy Evans. Then, with his good friend Hayward standing nearby, Evans turned and smiled and said, "Get off vacation, baby."
As Utah returns home for a four-game homestand, the team will continue to be cautious with its co-captain Hayward.
"It can be a thing that can linger if you don’t take care of it," Corbin said. "So we want to make sure we take care of it now and not have it linger for a long period of time."
The Jazz won’t have to wait long to get another crack at the Timberwolves. Minnesota heads to Utah on Tuesday. It’s the third time this year the Jazz have faced a team in consecutive games.
"They think they have [our] number," Corbin said. "They gave us a good beating [Saturday]; we’ll see how we respond on Tuesday."
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