On January 6, the Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 94-85 in a game that was closer than the score indicated. Sunday’s rematch was much of the same, with Utah pulling out a 98-88 victory in the fourth quarter. It was only the Jazz’s third road win of the season.
It was another balanced effort, as ten Utah players earned 10 or more minutes of playing time, with four scoring in double figures. Al Jefferson was strong with 21 points and 15 rebounds.
Rudy Gay paced the Grizzlies with 22 points.
Gordon Hayward: The second-year man came to play. Gordon Hayward’s confidence level was extremely high from the start of the game to the finish. In the first half, he set the tone for the big road victory, scoring on an array of silky jump shots and powerful drives to the basket. Then, in the fourth, he made three clutch plays down the stretch: two long jumpers, followed by an important assist to Paul Millsap.
When it was all said and done, it was one of his finest performances as a professional, as evidenced by his stat line: a game-high 23 points (8-12 field goals, 2-3 three-pointers, 5-5 free throws), 5 assists, 2 steals, with zero turnovers in 34 minutes.
Likewise, he has been one of Utah’s most consistent players of late. Hayward has showed aggressiveness on both ends of the court, with his defense improving each game. Offensively, he has scored double digits in eight of the past nine games. His stats over that same span: averages of 14.7 points (50.5 percent field goals, 80.5 percent free throws), 3.1 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 0.8 blocked shots per outing.
The future is bright for Gordon Hayward.
Outside shooting: The Jazz entered Sunday’s contest ranked 27th in the NBA in three-point percentage (29.3 percent) and 28th in three-pointers per game (3.7). While the volume was anything but prolific, it was Utah’s outside shooting at integral junctures that helped seal the victory for the Jazz. Treys by Hayward and Raja Bell late in the fourth were daggers. Tyrone Corbin’s squad finished 5 out of 13 on treys.
And it was not just three-pointers that were crucial. Perimeter marksmanship by Hayward, Bell, Devin Harris, and Utah’s front court was important.
- Bell has registered double digit points in three of the past four games and five out of his last nine.
- The slight mix-up of the front court rotation by Corbin actually resulted in young bigs Derrick Favors (20.5 minutes per game) and Enes Kanter (14.5) playing less minutes than normal: 14 for Favors, 11 for Kanter.
- Utah was intent on defense all night, notching nine steals and six blocked shots.
- As a team, the Jazz had a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (26 dimes, 13 miscues).
- Earl Watson has not scored in the 76 minutes he’s played the past four outings.
David Smith is providing instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage this season. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.