Indianapolis • From his vantage, standing behind the 3-point line at the right angle, with a defender’s hand in his face, the shot looked good.
Gordon Hayward’s last-second attempt flew straight and hung in the air as the buzzer sounded Sunday night at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The players on the Utah Jazz bench stood as they watched, hoping for a chance at overtime against the Indiana Pacers.
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Hayward, the Jazz’s young captain will always be remembered, at least in part, for a half-court buzzer beater in another downtown arena that left the Butler Bulldogs just short of a national championship. But in the Fieldhouse, a short drive from where he grew up, Hayward had seen a buzzer-beater fall the other way. His shot as time expired gave Brownsburg High School a 2008 state title.
Sunday night, he couldn’t repeat the feeling. "I thought it looked good," Hayward said. "Just back-rimmed it."
In the end, the final scoreboard read: Pacers 94, Jazz 91.
"Ah, man," said Jazz forward Marvin Williams, who watched the final shot from the bench. "He couldn’t have gotten a better look and I wouldn’t want a better person shooting it. The plays that he made to get us back in the game, man, he deserved to take that shot. Ten times out of 10, I’m going with Gordon Hayward with the ball and the game on the line."
The loss was Utah’s second in the first two games of this six-game trip. But after suffering a 20-point drubbing Friday night in Cleveland, hanging with the East’s best team — albeit a tired, and shorthanded version — might very well count as a bounce-back.
After twice squandering double-digit leads in the first half, the Jazz found themselves playing from behind against the Pacers. Indiana swarmed the Jazz, blocking eight shots and forcing 18 turnovers, resulting in 24 points.
Indiana, missing starting point guard George Hill and facing an early tipoff after playing in Boston the night before, got a game-high 25 points from forward David West and another 22 points from All-Star Paul George.
Utah (21-38) was down six points with five minutes to play when Hayward joined Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors on the floor. The Jazz’s young foundation nearly fought all the way back.
"These are situations that you have to … go through to grow through as a group," coach Ty Corbin said.
Said Williams, "That lineup that got us back in the game and kept us in the game, that is the future of Utah. Any Utah Jazz fan should be extremely excited about the future."
Burke finished with 16 points and 5 assists; Burks with 11 points and 9 rebounds; Kanter with 12 and 7 boards.
Favors, who first met up with the Jazz for a game in Indiana after being traded to the team in 2011, showed off his development since that rookie season. After the trade, Favors was soft-spoken and overwhelmed. Sunday night, he took a fight to All-Star center Roy Hibbert, getting the 7-footer in foul trouble that limited him to fewer than 20 minutes on the floor. Favors, meanwhile, scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
And Hayward, after a quiet start to Sunday’s game, scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half.
His trey with 3.2 seconds left in the game cut the Pacers’ lead down to one. And after a pair of Lance Stephenson free throws, Hayward raced down the right sideline, freeing himself for a shot and a chance at overtime.
"I thought it looked good," Corbin said.
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