Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — On Tuesday, Kevin Durant was in that crazy-good mode he gets into, oh, about every time he steps onto the court. He had the eye of the tiger Katy Perry and Survivor like to sing about. For the second time in four nights, the superstar scored an NBA season-high 48 points.
Thanks to Gordon Hayward, it wasn’t nearly enough.
On this night, Hayward’s career game trumped Durant’s latest huge outing as the hot-shooting guard scored 37 points to lead the Jazz to a 112-101 victory over Oklahoma City at EnergySolutions Arena.
“Yeah,” Hayward said, “I was in the zone a little bit tonight.”
Not only did he have the line of the night — 13-of-16 shooting, 11 rebounds and seven assists — but Hayward also had the understatement of the night with that humble quote.
It’d be like the Jazz (12-25) claiming their double-digit win over Western Conference-leading OKC (27-8) was a little bit surprising.
Hayward and the Jazz were in the zone a lot bit, if you will.
En route to its signature win to date in the 2013-14 season, Utah shot a season-best 58.8 percent, held the Thunder to 39.3 percent shooting, had every starter hit double figures and played clutch when it counted most.
“It’s obviously definitely one of the best ones (wins),” Jazz point guard Trey Burke said. “That’s a really good team over there in OKC, a playoff team. That goes to show when we compete we can play with the best of them.”
Play with and beat the best of them in this case.
But still. OKC had beaten the Jazz twice this season without star playmaker Westbrook, and the Thunder had won eight straight road games and four in a row against Utah. Even down a couple of guys, this is a loaded championship contender.
And the Thunder are especially dangerous when Durant goes off like he did while matching his point total from OKC's game against Minnesota on Saturday night.
Durant seemed like he was going to almost single-handedly haul the Thunder to a big comeback victory in front of a rabid crowd of 18,547. His free throws with 4:50 remaining trimmed a one-time 24-point Jazz lead down to just five.
“He is an unbelievable player,” Hayward said, “and he tried to carry them.”
Hayward knows a little bit about carrying teams.
The Jazz shooting guard, who might want to save newspaper clips and highlights from this game for contract negotiations next offseason, scored the final 17 points of the game for Utah.
Guard Alec Burks’ free throw with 7:49 remaining was the final non-Hayward point for the Jazz.
Hayward’s biggest buckets in that stretch were consecutive 3-pointers he hit in the moments after Durant freebies pulled the Thunder within five (99-94) and six points (102-96).
The punctuation points came with 1:01 remaining when Hayward stole a Nick Collison pass and hauled it to the basket for a breakaway slam to give the Jazz a 13-point lead.
Game. Set. Haywardmania.
“How about Gordon? He was huge,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “I mean, we needed every last basket he made for us.”
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