Forward Hayward, wayward Cavaliers
Jazz star makes all the music as Cleveland pay price for poor second quarter
|UTAH JAZZ||CLEVELAND CAVALIERS|
If Gordon Hayward wanted to build a slam-dunk case for being named an All-Star this season, his performance against the defending NBA champions should headline his resume and lead off his personal highlight reel.
Hayward played as close to a perfect game as anyone could have scripted in leading Utah to a 100-92 victory over Cleveland yesterday morning (Singapore time).
He found all sorts of ways and plays to make the Cavaliers miserable. The Jazz forward finished with 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting and collected eight rebounds.
Is it enough to earn his first inclusion in an NBA All-Star game?
Hayward isn't worried about what he can't control.
His focus is set squarely on helping Utah realise their full potential as a team.
"I feel like we got to move up a little higher in the standings," Hayward said. "I'm worrying about wins more than anything.
"That stuff usually comes when your team are winning."
Rodney Hood added 18 points to snap out of a recent shooting slump. Rudy Gobert added 11 points and 14 rebounds to notch his 27th double-double of the season.
Six players reached double figures, helping Utah (24-16) win their third consecutive home game.
LeBron James scored 29 points and Kyrie Irving added 20 points to lead Cleveland.
Tristan Thompson chipped in 12 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.
The Cavaliers (28-9) saw a three-game road-winning streak snapped in part because they could not fully recover from a bad second quarter.
Cleveland totalled 12 points after shooting 5 for 23 from the field during the period.
"The second quarter was bad basketball," James said.
"We just couldn't make a shot and those guys got out in transition. That second quarter pretty much hurt us for the rest of the game."
Cleveland briefly rallied after half-time when James scored on three straight possessions - draining a pair of three-pointers and throwing down a transition dunk. His baskets gave the Cavaliers a 60-58 lead midway through the quarter.
Everything unravelled from there. Hayward answered with a series of baskets to fuel a 16-0 Utah run.
He scored on three straight possessions - highlighted by back-to-back three-pointers - to help the Jazz retake the lead.
Hayward then capped the spurt with a turnaround jumper in transition, putting Utah ahead 74-60 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said the rally required so much effort from his team, that it left them flat as the quarter wound down.
"We used so much energy in the third quarter," Lue said.
"We should have started the game that way."
Cleveland closed the gap one last time late in the fourth quarter. A soaring dunk from Imam Shumpert cut Utah's lead to 96-90 with 2:36 left.
Hood answered by burying a corner three-pointer over James on the other end.
He put Utah back up by nine going into the final two minutes.
The Cavaliers got no closer after missing their final three field-goal attempts in that two-minute stretch.
Cleveland were ultimately undone by 18 turnovers that led to 23 points for Utah and 36.5 per cent shooting from the field. - REUTERS
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