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Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward's monster performance vs. OKC the latest strong outing for shooting guard

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8 2014 9:05 p.m. MST

Utah Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward (20) drives to the hoop past Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha (25) as the Jazz and the Thunder play Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — At Wednesday’s practice, Enes Kanter jokingly mentioned that Gordon Hayward should’ve tried to get three more assists Tuesday night. Smiling, Brandon Rush said he wanted to see the shooting guard take a 3-pointer in the final minute of the Jazz's 112-101 win over Oklahoma City.

And Hayward lamented that he missed some free throws down the stretch.

“That was easy money,” he said. “I could have had those.”

Now, let’s not get greedy.

At least Hayward and his Utah Jazz teammates were able to laugh about how his career-best night — 37 points on 13-of-16 shooting, 11 rebounds and seven assists — supposedly could’ve been better.

“If I would have been less selfish,” Hayward said, “I could have gotten a triple-double.”

Hayward wasn’t the only one who noticed how close he came to notching just the 25th triple-double in the Jazz’s 40-year history.

“He put his heart and played really hard. He has enough talent to do it every night,” Kanter said. With a grin, he added, “He needed three more assists to get a triple-double.”

The Jazz will forgive him, considering Hayward became the first player since LeBron James to close out a game with 17 points in a row for his team.

"He was balling," backup point guard Diante Garrett said.

Hayward’s monster performance was just the latest in a string of strong games. He scored 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting in each of the previous two contests against the Lakers and Bucks.

That from a guy who had admittedly been in an extended slump, having shot just 39.7 percent from the field in the 2013 portion of this season.

“It is finally good to be there (in the zone). It has been a rough season shooting for me,” Hayward said. “Good to get back into the gym at home. I was able to go over at nighttime and get more shots up, and I think that really helped me.”

Hayward, the Jazz's leading scorer with 17.1 points per game, said he recently tweaked his shooting delivery. Specifically, he's been stepping forward into his shot instead of leaning back. He also kept his shoulders “pretty much straight up and down,” as he’s been instructed.

“So,” he said, “that was a big key.”

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin laughed when asked if he noticed anything different about Hayward’s shot.

“When the ball goes in the hole,” he said, “it looks like everything’s going well.”

Corbin’s happy to see Hayward’s hard work pay off.

“It was great. I know how much he’s been working. He comes in early, stays late, works on the shot and to see it start going in the hole for him it’s tremendous,” Corbin said. “To see it going in with the frequency it went in last night, it’s really good for his confidence. It’s good for us.”

The Jazz needed Hayward’s offensive outburst to counter star Kevin Durant’s 48-point night. Garrett thoroughly enjoyed watching that duel from his front-row seat in the fourth quarter. Combined, Durant and Hayward scored 28 points in the final period.

“It was crazy. It was funny,” Garrett said, “because I’m just like, ‘(He’s) playing against the No. 1 scorer in the league (and) he’s giving it to him. He’s giving it to whoever was (guarding) him.’”

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