INDIANAPOLIS — Oh, what a night Friday was for the Utah Jazz.
It was a fun homecoming night for Gordon Hayward.
It was an eagerly anticipated premiere night for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors.
It was one heck of a productive night for Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and the Jazz defense.
It was a historic night for the Jazz's new head coach, Ty Corbin.
It was a much-needed night for a roughed-up and restructured team that has suffered something fierce the past few weeks, if not months.
And did we mention it was also a winning night for the Jazz, who stymied the high-flying Indiana Pacers, 95-84, at Conseco Fieldhouse for a desperately needed victory?
Yeah, that made everybody's night in the lively and laughter-filled Utah locker room.
"It was great. It was big," Corbin said after winning for the first time as the Jazz's bench boss since replacing Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan 16 days and four losses ago.
"All of the stuff that's happened the last couple of weeks to this team and the changes that we've made, the adversity that we've faced, they hung in there," Corbin added. "They kept working. They kept getting better, and it showed tonight. So it's good to finally see some rewards from all of the hard work that we've done."
The Jazz came out playing with an energetic enthusiasm that's been missing for quite some time, helping them snap a five-game losing streak and win for just the fifth time in the past 19 games.
"It seems like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders, getting that first win (in a while)," Millsap said. "Tonight was for Ty to get his first win under his belt. Hopefully, this can start a streak of wins for us."
Defense sparked 32-27 Utah early on, with the Jazz holding the Pacers to a season opponent-low 13 points in the first quarter en route to a rare and early double-digit lead.
The 26-31 Pacers, who had scored 100-plus in 11 straight games, rallied to take a small lead in the second half. But Utah tightened its defense up again — while getting some big-time offensive performances from Jefferson (30 points, nine rebounds) and Millsap (23 points, 18 boards).
"We helped each other (on defense) and this is what we're going to need going forward," Corbin said. "We've got to have the same effort every night."
The very active Utah squad was sparked by everybody from rookie Favors to veterans like Big Al (five blocks), Andrei Kirilenko (two steals) and C.J. Miles (two swats). The Jazz, playing a stingy effort that thrilled Corbin and would've pleased a certain defensive-preaching coach, blocked 13 Pacer shots and limited Indiana to just 34.8 percent shooting.
"It's a little bit of a whirlwind, but we got the job done," Harris said after his Jazz debut, which included 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes. "We got off to a good start and (were) defensively very active, and it continued throughout the game."
Corbin said the key was being "aggressive" and playing together.
The new coach, who's now 1-4, was also pleased with his new pair of players. Harris played like a savvy veteran after coming off the bench, and Favors gave Utah some very good minutes and especially on the defensive end of the court.
"Devin and Derrick came in and did a great job (despite) not knowing a lot of the plays," Corbin said. "The effort was great."
Favors finished with six points — second-most off the bench after Harris — and grabbed three rebounds with a blocked shot.
"I understand their situation. They lost their coach and traded their best player off their team," Favors said, recalling Sloan's resignation and the equally shocking trade that sent Deron Williams to New Jersey this week. "I knew they just wanted to come in and try to prove people wrong and just come out and win. I'm happy that me and Devin had a chance to be apart of it."
The team was also exited to be part of Haywardmania. The former Butler star and Indiana native — from nearby Brownsburg — treated the loudly supportive crowd with a monster dunk, three rebounds and some trademark Hoosier State hustle during his first game back in Indiana as a professional.
Though Hayward was raucously cheered on by the crowd of 16,205 — a bunch of whom wore No. 20 Jazz jerseys — the No. 9 overall pick also had a shot swatted by Indiana's Jeff Foster. Pacers fans loudly cheered to show their real colors when that happened.
But Hayward's team left Conseco with the win, so the lifelong Pacer fan will happily take that away from his special night.60 comments on this story
"That's the ultimate goal. ... Whether or not I even played, I'm most happy about the win," Hayward said. "We've been struggling a little bit, so it was good to get a win finally and we played well as a team."
GAME NOTES: The Jazz don't have much time to celebrate Corbin's first win — Utah plays tonight in Detroit. ... Utah outrebounded Indiana 56-46, becoming the first team to beat the Pacers on the glass in Frank Vogel's 13 games as interim coach. ... The Jazz have won eight of their last 10 games in Indiana.