Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward, Jazz hope to be villains on the road
OAKLAND, Calif. — Apparently, an updated list of villains is needed.
Make that Lex Luthor, Lord Voldemort, Khan, Darth Vader, Freddy Krueger, Norman Bates, Inspector Javert, Ursula and introducing bad boy wannabe Gordon Hayward.
At least, that is, when he's not in Utah.
While discussing tonight's important game in Golden State, the third-year swingman said he enjoys taking his act elsewhere.
"I like playing on the road better," Hayward admitted. "I kinda like being the villain a little bit."
Unfortunately for the Jazz, Hayward looks like a villain type on about the same level as his team has proved to be a disturbing force on opponents' home courts this season.
That, however, likely has to change, and quickly, if the Jazz hope to remain in the playoff hunt.
And, like Hayward, become road villains.
Utah (40-37) currently trails the Lakers (40-36) by a half-game for that final spot out West, and Los Angeles has won three games in a row with all but one game remaining outside of Staples Center.
Both teams are in action today, beginning with the Lakers' cross-court rivalry showdown with the Clippers this afternoon.
Regardless of what happens in that one, the Jazz will then hope to find more success at Oracle Arena than they have elsewhere this season around the NBA. Utah has lost 27 times on the road this season. In fact, only 10 teams have fewer away victories than the Jazz's 11 wins as visitors.
"For whatever reason, we just don't bring it on the road," Hayward said. "I don't know. I think it just happens. I think we don't go into it with focus and energy. I don't know. We just don't bring it."
Considering the Jazz are almost the exact opposite at home (29-10), their road woes are the biggest reason they're in this postseason predicament right now.
"We've just got to do everything we can to try and make sure we come off and start well. I think it's all about the first and third quarter for us," Hayward added. "You let a team get going and we get ourselves down 15 to 20 points, and that's when we've got to crawl our way back. We usually do, but it's always a little too late."
Of course, Utah has racked up one road win in a row, having rallied past Portland with a strong surge at the end of the fourth quarter in a 105-95 win a week ago Friday. That victory over the Blazers snapped a damaging nine-game road losing streak, including blown opportunities in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Chicago.
"We've got to understand what we did the last time out on the road up in Portland. We've got to play that way," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We've got to play with a lot of sense of urgency. The way we finished that game off in the second half defensively, I thought we did a good job. Coming out after halftime, really understanding that we had to be aggressive and create some offense from our defense."
Having bounced back from Wednesday's tough blow to Denver, Corbin likes his crew's confidence level heading into this critical game. A Laker win and a Jazz loss today would be devastating to Utah's playoff chances.
That win will be even tougher to do in Oakland than it was in Rip City, though. Led by Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack, the Warriors (44-32) are a solid-looking No. 6 seed who've won seven of nine games.
At least the Jazz are coming in with some success after that long drought.
"Until you win on the road, you can't get confidence of winning on the road. No matter how close the game is, if you lose the game, it's another loss," Corbin said. "So you win the game and you have a chance. You have a feel now for what it feels like to win on the road and what it takes to win on the road. And so we're looking to build on that momentum."
The key to winning on the road, Corbin explained, is to have a "the sense of urgency for longer stretches of time." The Jazz don't just need a stop here or there. They need multiple stops in a row. And they certainly can't afford to allow the dangerous Warriors to extend their scoring spurts.
"You have to sustain that and be able to create offense from your defense and not try and get offense first and just trade baskets with teams," Corbin said. "Especially on the road, you've gotta get stops."
And especially at this point of the season when one loss weighs so heavily on postseason hopes or one win counts for so much.
"It's wearing on everybody this time of year. But I think, if you're a competitor, you should be excited at this time of year," Corbin said. "You have a chance to make the playoffs. You have a chance to finish strong. And every game is really important and this is where you show what you're made of."
Corbin admitted some players "can't respond to it." But he's been impressed with his team's ability to respond to adversity this season.
In that sense, this game will be one of several more the Jazz will face regardless of what the Lakers do. Utah still has a home game Tuesday against Oklahoma City and a road season finale at Memphis on April 17.
"I think this group has shown a lot of poise and character being able to function in a pressure situation every night we step out there on the floor," Corbin said. "And you can only grow from that and from the situation we're in now. And you want to make sure we seize the moment.
"You can't give up on the play or give up on the game because you think you're not gonna get it. It could be life or death for you now. So you want to show what you're made of here and I think this group has shown a lot of poise in that area."
Now they just have to go live up to the role of the bad guys — in the villain sense — against the Warriors and their crowd.
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