Kragthorpe: Gordon Hayward gives Jazz some hope vs. Warriors as they come home

First Published      Last Updated May 22 2017 03:19 pm

Oakland, Calif.

Every answer came with a grimace and a shake of Gordon Hayward's head. "Again," he said with a sigh Thursday, "here we are."

And that before the Golden State Warriors did anything.

Hayward's observation about the Jazz's latest plight in the NBA playoffs came several hours before Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, as he fielded questions about teammate George Hill's unavailability due to a toe injury.

Then the Jazz took the Oracle Arena court and were overwhelmed at the start. Golden State's 115-104 victory reinforced the belief that the Jazz's winning even one game in this series will be a breakthrough.

Yet even if the margin was about the same, this exercise was not a replay of Game 1. In long stretches, the Jazz appeared capable of playing with Golden State. They went from trailing by 20 points midway through the second quarter to being down by six in the third period.

The Warriors, not surprisingly, reasserted themselves. Even so, Hayward's offensive revival created a shred of hope for the Jazz going into Games 3 and 4 in Salt Lake City.

"Utah got some confidence," said Mike Brown, the Warriors' acting coach.

Hayward scored four points in the first quarter, eight in the second and 12 in the third. Apparently, 16 in the fourth was an unreasonable request. He added nine points, finishing with 33.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder liked Hayward's aggressiveness in the last three quarters, as opposed to waiting to get wide-open shots. "If you're waiting to get more open, you don't get that opportunity," Snyder said.

Hayward confirmed that the Jazz made some kind of discovery about getting into the paint and creating better shots for themselves.

So Hayward found his game, Rudy Gobert established himself with 16 points and 16 rebounds and Dante Exum did some nice things. Those were encouraging developments for the Jazz.

Actually winning a game, though? That's still asking a lot.

"I think we need to play angry from the first minute," Gobert said.

"It's definitely draining," Hayward said of having to battle back. "It all stems from the way we came out of the gates."

The Jazz at least displayed some poise and confidence after looking lost offensively at the start — even though they're used to playing without Hill by now.

Just when the Jazz's assignment appeared daunting enough, their point guard was sidelined. So all they were asking Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto to do was run their offense, make up for Hill's scoring and help stop Stephen Curry and the rest of the Warriors.

How'd that work out? The best answer is Exum played seven minutes of the first half at point guard, as Snyder turned to him in some combination of desperation and disgust. Exum played fearlessly and aggressively, traits his teammates lacked — although Mack came back and played decently at times.

» Next page... Single page