So far, so good in 2014. The Utah Jazz are enjoying the new year as the team continued its recent solid play Tuesday evening, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-101 to earn its second victory since Jan. 1.
The Jazz enjoyed a balanced effort (seven players scored nine points or more), but Gordon Hayward was the best player on the court for much of the evening. Hayward scored the final 17 points for Utah, making some clutch 3-pointers down the stretch to clinch the game’s outcome.
Oklahoma City was missing two very talented players in the injured Russell Westbrook and the ill Serge Ibaka. This left much of the responsibility on the slender shoulders of All-NBA forward and MVP candidate Kevin Durant. He poured in a game-high 48 points, with his vast repertoire of offensive moves on display. That said, Durant went the entire fourth quarter without a field goal as his team fell short.
Hayward’s big night: Earlier on Tuesday, Hayward was mentioned by national media personality Bill Simmons as a potential target for a few teams, either via trade or free agency. If he plays like he did versus the Thunder, the Utah Jazz will probably do everything they can to retain the up-and-coming player.
The talented swingman had perhaps the best outing of his career. While it was a very good team effort, it was Hayward who put his team on his back in the fourth quarter to ensure the win. When it was all said and done, he connected on 13 of 16 from the floor, including those pair of treys. Hayward had 37 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes.
Bench burst: While Utah’s starters set a nice tone early, it was the Jazz’s group of reserves that helped create a big first-half lead. Playing much of the second quarter, Utah’s bench injected the game with an energetic, spirited effort.
Enes Kanter continues his improved play, scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds in just 13 minutes. Alec Burks had nine points, hitting three of his four shots. And after some listless performances and an eventual benching, Brandon Rush showed the perimeter marksmanship he’s known for, hitting a pair of jumpers in his stint.
While the Thunder bench closed the gap in the second half, Utah’s counterparts won the bench battle 28-23.
This and that:
• Durant had 18 more field goal attempts than Hayward but only one more make. The former took 34 shots for his 48 points (plus 19 trips to the free-throw line).
• Oklahoma City’s backup backcourt of Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher had a tough go, combining to shoot five of 20 from the floor and an abysmal 1 of 13 from behind the arc.
• Of the nine players who attempted a shot, Trey Burke was the only one to not shoot 50 percent or better.
• Starting Thunder center Kendrick Perkins doubled his scoring average with six points.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.