I thought he came out big in the beginning of this game. He really pushed the pace for us, kept us in there. —Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin
SALT LAKE CITY — In the midst of losing their eighth consecutive game and maintaining their solitary status as the only team in the league that has yet to record a victory, the Utah Jazz did have a small bright spot in their 100-81 loss to Denver Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
The veteran guard continued his warm start to the season with a game-high 22 points on 50 percent shooting. He gave the Jazz momentum early, leading to their largest lead of 10 points.
“I thought he came out big in the beginning of this game,” head coach Tyrone Corbin said afterward. “He really pushed the pace for us, kept us in there.”
Eight games into the season, Hayward is averaging a team-high 19.5 points and, in spite of the one-sided losses, was a spark in the recent four-game road trip.
“He’s growing. He’s learning,” Corbin said. “He’s frustrated because we’re not getting the wins in his good play.”
On Monday, Hayward scored 12 of the team’s 26 first-quarter points and shot 5 for 6 from the field in the opening 10 minutes. He carried that momentum into the second and third quarters, adding another 10 points while grabbing three rebounds and blocking two shots.
Hayward was scoreless in the final 12 minutes, however, a key symptom to the Jazz scoring a season-low 13 points during the fourth quarter.
“I think they did a better job on the pick-and-rolls,” Hayward said of how the Nuggets adjusted on the defensive end. “They started to blitz the pick-and-roll, and I tried to find the open man when they doubled. They did a lot better job on that and we didn’t get as many stops, so I didn’t get anything in transition really.”
The change in the Denver defense also led to poor mistakes with the ball in his hands.
“Too many turnovers, too many offensive rebounds for them, (giving up) wide-open layups — a lot went wrong,” he said. “I thought that I forced it a little tonight and seven turnovers showed that. So I’ve got to keep the turnovers down and make better decisions.”
The Jazz had 14 turnovers as a team, giving up 17 points, and shot just 22.2 percent in the fourth quarter, a huge drop from their 47.8 percent shooting in the first quarter when Hayward was scoring in transition and finding open paths to the basket in half-court sets.
“(We) focused on him in the second half and were looking to make some plays,” Corbin said, “and we just didn’t make shots.”
The guard added, simply, that to keep that bright spot shining late in the game, “We’ve just got to execute better.”
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.