SALT LAKE CITY — If Wednesday's outing wasn't the gold standard of Gordon Hayward's fledgling NBA career, it certainly was in medal contention.
Kind of ironic that the Butler product's stellar showing in the pivotal fourth quarter of Utah's come-from-behind 112-107 win over Minnesota just so happened to come against former Syracuse star Wes Johnson's team.
Those two prized rookies were even pitted against each other for a while in the fourth period, bringing back memories of how Hayward's Bulldogs upset Johnson's No. 1-seeded Orange in the Sweet Sixteen at EnergySolutions Arena last March.
Hayward didn't offer details but grinned while saying he'd chatted with the No. 2 overall pick.
"I knew him from the draft and everything — of course, playing (against) him, so we had a couple of words," Hayward said. "It was cool to see him out there playing."
The Jazz thought it was cool to see their struggling No. 9 draft selection out there playing so well in the fourth quarter, too.
Deron Williams' lauded the sporadically used 20-year-old's effort.
"He came in and provided us with a good lift," Williams said. "Defensively, he was great. He had a couple of plays where he was off the ball but came over and helped guys finish at the rim. He just played great for us."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was glad he was able to give the rookie some deserved and needed playing time.
Remarkably, Hayward stayed in for the entire fourth quarter, scoring five points with three assists, three rebounds and essentially the game-clinching three-point play with 13.0 seconds remaining.
This, coming from a player who'd seen two minutes in the previous game and who'd been put on the inactive list despite being healthy two nights before that.
Hayward said he simply tried to provide energy to the Jazz, who began the fourth quarter down a dozen points to the six-win Timberwolves.
"You've just always gotta be ready," Hayward said. "Whenever (Sloan) calls your name, go in there and try to do whatever you can to help the team out."
Rinse and repeat, even if those chances come infrequently. In this opportunity, Hayward didn't give his coach a reason to sub him out. He hustled, played hard and remained composed under pressure while the young T-Wolves fell apart.
"That says that Coach Sloan trusts him," center Al Jefferson said of Hayward staying in for the fourth. "And he should try to keep that trust, and he did.
"He played well (Wednesday)," Jefferson added. "He got some big-time rebounds, knocked down a big free throw, so my hats go off to him. That's the way to play — always be ready to play."
THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY: Jazz radio voice David Locke had plenty of chances late Wednesday to say one of his favorite sayings of "(Fill in the blank player) buys one and gets one free!"
Fifteen of Utah's 41 fourth-quarter points came in and-one situations, and those five buckets-plus-free-throw, 3-point plays all happened in the final 4:08.
Paul Millsap converted two and-ones, while Jefferson, Williams and Hayward each had one.
It was a clear sign that one team (21-9 Utah) remained poised under pressure, while the other one (6-24 Minnesota) freaked out as its one-time lead of 15 dwindled and disappeared.
T-Wolves' coach Kurt Rambis said his players made "silly mistakes," allowing Utah to get all of those extra foul shots.
"Defensively," added Minnesota guard Luke Ridnour, "we have given up some and-ones that really kind of bit us in the butt."5 comments on this story
MISC.: For the sixth time this season, Williams only missed one free throw when making 10 or more attempts from the line. D-Will, an 86 percent free-throw shooter, was 13-for-14 on freebies. In March, Williams went 11-for-11 against Boston, which marked the only time he's ever made every shot with a minimum of 10 attempts in one game. … The Jazz improved to 15-1 when hitting the century mark in scoring. Utah averages 100.5 points per game. … The Jazz went 3-1 on their pre-Christmas trip and earned their first winning record on that annual holiday getaway since 2006. … Utah doesn't play again until Monday night when it hosts Portland.