Jazz notes: Gordon Hayward answers benching with aggressive play
Cleveland • Gordon Hayward entered Monday as the only Jazz player to have started all 36 games this season. But when the jump ball was tossed up against the Cavaliers, the Utah forward was stuck on the bench.
His reserve role occurred because Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin made his biggest in-season lineup change since taking over for Jerry Sloan.
Going all-in for a second-half playoff push, Corbin sent Hayward to the second unit and started the game with Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Josh Howard, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.
Hayward responded like a 10-year veteran instead of a second-year pro who doesn't turn 22 until March 23.
He scored 11 first-half points on 4-of-6 shooting, running the floor with passion and smoothly fitting in with a second unit led by veteran point guard Earl Watson. The No. 9 overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft finished with a season-high-tying 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, rivaling Al Jefferson as Utah's MVP during a 109-100 victory against Cleveland.
"I didn't take it as anything but [Corbin] is trying to help the team win," Hayward said. "That's what we need is wins, so that's what I'm focused on."
He received starter's minutes during the third quarter, after Howard left the game due to his fourth personal foul. Hayward responded with even more aggressive play, scoring 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Harris started strong, scoring nine first-half points and taking six foul shots as he outraced the Cavaliers in transition. But Utah's starting point guard left the game with 10:33 left in the third period due to a sprained right knee.
With Harris out, third-string point guard Jamaal Tinsley saw rare action. He stepped up just like he did Feb. 2 against Golden State, playing 10:01 and bombing away for two made 3-pointers.
Cleveland rookie point guard Kyrie Irving was held to just one point on 0-of-6 shooting during the first half and didn't make a mark until the Jazz were in control.
Rookie Alec Burks initially paid the price for Hayward being moved to the bench. C.J. Miles joined Hayward and Watson in the second-unit backcourt, and Burks didn't get in the game until the 3:51 mark in the third quarter. â¦ Bell failed to hit a 3, ending a streak of 18 consecutive games played he'd made at least one.