He really threw himself into the game. He hasn't played as well as he can, and we have high expectations for him on all levels. But I feel like he's banging on the door, banging on the door. —Quin Snyder said of Gordon Hayward
LOS ANGELES — As the Utah Jazz prepared to play a team they had not defeated in five years, coach Quin Snyder offered the following response when asked what he wanted most from his players.
"Consistency," Snyder said. "Whatever that means."
As the Jazz broke their 13-game losing streak against the Los Angeles Clippers, they might have found a key to achieving that elusive trait: Converting one of their best player's hidden potential into a solid performance.
Gordon Hayward, the team's leading scorer this season, played just 6 minutes, 41 seconds in the first quarter of Wednesday night's 102-91 victory. But Hayward spent the entire second quarter on the court and scored nine of his season-high 33 points during the period.
"We wanted to take Gordon out early, at the six-minute mark, and see if we can get him back in the second quarter," Snyder said. "He got in a good rhythm. We used him like that last year and the rhythm really wasn't there."
Snyder also noticed a more important improvement.
"For him to produce the way he did offensively and still defend the way he did was great," Snyder said. "He really threw himself into the game. He hasn't played as well as he can, and we have high expectations for him on all levels. But I feel like he's banging on the door, banging on the door."
Hayward attributed his performance to the Jazz's improved defensive effort.
"That's huge for us, honestly," Hayward said. "We can bring the ball with force and we can just get moving a little more."
Consistency on defense, in turn, means maintaining concentration.
"Overall, we can learn from this game how to be ready from the get-go and just sustain the energy," said Derrick Favors, who finished with 22 points. "We just wanted to pick up the pace, play physical, do a lot of things with force. We knew we had to come out with a lot of energy."
In the process, the Jazz might start to rely more on Raul Neto at the point. Neto played 26 minutes, finished with six assists and scored a career-high 10 points as both Rodney Hood and Trey Burke sustained minor injuries.
The Brazilian rookie played a pivotal role in the third quarter, when he contributed seven points, two steals and an assist during a 14-2 blitz that enabled the Jazz to turn a 51-48 deficit into a 62-53 lead with 6:43 left in the period.
"He handled the pressure," Hayward said. "He made great passes, great reads, great shots."
Despite ending five years of frustration against one of the Western Conference's best teams, the Jazz know they remain a work in progress.
"We've still got a lot of improvement to do," Favors said. "We can only be the best that we can be, and 7-7 is good enough for us, for right now."