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Hayward’s all-around effort lifts Jazz past Suns

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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SALT LAKE CITY — During the first three seasons of his NBA career, Utah Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward developed a great relationship with Jeff Hornacek.

Hornacek is now the Phoenix Suns’ head coach, no longer a Jazz assistant, but his presence at EnergySolutions Arena on Wednesday coincided with one of Hayward’s best performances in a while.

Hayward flirted with his first triple-double, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and seven Jazz players scored in double figures during Utah’s 109-86 victory over the Suns.

Hayward showed signs of breaking out of his month-long shooting slump, hitting seven of 13 attempts from the field. He didn’t play the final six minutes, missing out on getting Utah’s first triple-double since 2008.

“It was close, but it just didn’t work out. I am just happy we got the win,” Hayward said. “All my teammates told me, ‘Get one more assist,’ so I knew. It was a blowout game. We had the lead and the win, so you don’t want to risk anything.”

The Jazz (21-36) cruised to their second straight win overall and against Phoenix.

The slumping Suns, trying to hold onto the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, had a couple of built-in excuses for a poor performance and their third straight loss.

The visitors were more undermanned than usual, as leading scorer and playmaker Goran Dragic (sprained ankle) didn’t suit up. Phoenix (33-24) also was without guard Eric Bledsoe (knee), guard Leandro Barbosa (toe) and center Viacheslav Kravtsov (ankle).

Phoenix also traveled to Utah late Tuesday night after losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves at home.

“We played last night,” Hornacek said, “and being short-handed, it looked like we just ran out of gas.”

Suns guard Gerald Green scored a team-high 17 points, including two highlight-reel dunks in the first half. Point guard Ish Smith, who started for Dragic, finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Small forward Richard Jefferson scored 17 points, and center Derrick Favors, guard Alec Burks and point guard Diante Garrett each contributed 15 points for Utah. Garrett hit six of nine field goals and three of four from 3-point range en route to his career high against the team he played 19 games with last season.

The Jazz improved to 2-2 against the Suns.

Hornacek, a former All-Star shooting guard, was on the Jazz’s NBA Finals clubs in 1997 and ’98, and he was a coach in various capacities for Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan and current coach Tyrone Corbin from 2007-13 before being hired by Phoenix last May.

The 23-point margin was Utah’s largest winning spread of the year. Utah’s previous largest margin of victory was 21 in road games at Sacramento and Detroit.

“We did a good job of stopping them in transition,” Jazz point guard Trey Burke said. “We moved the ball really well and got the shots that we wanted. … No one was selfish out there.”

Utah, which only averages 95 points a game, improved to 14-2 when it scores more than 103 points.

The Jazz, who shot 56.8 percent compared to Phoenix’s 38.8 percent clip, outscored the Suns 56-42 in the second half to turn the contest into a blowout.

Utah played its final home game until March 10, when former Jazz forward Paul Millsap makes his first return with the Atlanta Hawks. The Jazz kick off a six-game road trip Friday in Cleveland against the Cavaliers.

The Suns begin a four-game homestand Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

“We have to get a good win the next game,” Hornacek said. “We can tell them that. We can talk about it. We had a four-game losing streak earlier in the season, and then we bounced back and had a pretty good run. … You kind of just flush this one away.”

If Hayward had notched one more assist, he would have posted the Jazz’s first triple-double since Carlos Boozer tallied 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists at Seattle on Feb. 13, 2008. Hayward, who shot just 30 percent in his previous 13 games, isn’t satisfied that he is completely out of his funk.

“I am still not where I want to be,” he said. “I thought I was a little more active tonight, starting defensively and was able to get some rebounds and push it myself.”

NOTES: Suns PG Goran Dragic was sidelined after spraining his right ankle in Tuesday’s home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. “You know Goran. He wants to try, but it makes sense to keep him out. It’s pretty sore and swollen,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Maybe we’ll get him back for Friday.” … Jazz teammates Gordon Hayward and John Lucas III participated in a tennis target-hitting competition Tuesday during a Champions Challenge event featuring retired greats John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and James Blake. Both Hayward and Lucas were accomplished tennis players as teenagers, but they combined to hit one of six targets. “For the record, (Lucas) didn’t hit any of the targets,” Hayward said. “I’ve got one up on him right now.” Now the Jazz players want to take their rivalry to the tennis court. Lucas: “I have placement in where I put the ball. I would have Gordon on the run. He’d be out of shape.” Who would win? Rookie G Trey Burke: “I’ve never seen either one of them play. All I’ve heard was talk from both of them.”

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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