SALT LAKE CITY — There was an element of surprise to the Utah Jazz starting lineup when it took on Memphis at the EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday evening.
Small forward Gordon Hayward was inserted into the starting spot at the last minute, and ultimately proved to be a vital piece in the 90-84 victory.
The third-year player hit a key 3-pointer with just 17.3 seconds left to give the Jazz the six-point cushion that allowed the team to hold on to the victory.
“(It) really wasn’t that much of a difference,” Hayward said of adjusting to moving back into a starting role for the first time since November. “I think it’s just the time that you’re out there on the court.”
Hayward led the Jazz in scoring with 17 points and tied a season-high with eight rebounds in his nearly 38 minutes on the floor. He shot 50 percent from the floor and from beyond the 3-point line and had three assists, a steal, and just one turnover on the night.
He hit his first 3 with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter to pull the Jazz to within three points, 19-16, after trailing by eight points early on. Hayward hit his second 3 of the game with 2:58 left to give the Jazz an 11-point advantage before the Grizzlies attempted a late rally.
Head coach Tyrone Corbin was pleased not only with Hayward’s individual effort as a starter, but also with how the team utilized the extra dimension he added to the offense.
“I was happy with the pace we could create,” Corbin said. “Put (Hayward) on the ball, take him off the ball, mix it up a little bit to give different looks, and still get the ball where we’re trying to get it in the post. It makes us more versatile, especially against a team that locks in so much on the strong side that we can get a guy on the weak side who can attack from the backside.”
Hayward said that the Grizzlies’ double team on Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on the inside added to his ability to hit big shots on the opposite 3-point line.
“Any time that somebody double-teams someone, another should be open, just logically,” he said. “When they (Jefferson and Millsap) make a sharp, quick pass out and we swing it around and get the reversal, somebody’s going to be open. You’ve just got to be able to step up and knock the shot down.”
After a successful night for both Hayward and the entire team, Corbin was asked if he is going to stick with this latest rendition of the Jazz starting lineup.
He said, "We’ll look at it going forward.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.