GORDON Hayward got his first All-Star nod and responded with a stellar performance in leading the Utah Jazz’s sizzling second half to beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 96-88, at the Vivint Smart Home Arena on Thursday (Friday, Manila time).
Hayward, voted by the coaches as a reserve to play in his first All-Star Game, scored 14 of his 24 in the second half. He particularly turned it up late with eight fourth-quarter points to deny the Lakers’ comeback bid from 14 points down.
The Jazz went on a 14-0 run midway through the third to turn a 56-52 deficit into a 12-point lead. Utah led by as much as 14 early in the fourth before an 8-0 Lakers run cut the lead to four, 80-76, with over four minutes left.
The Lakers again got within five entering the 2-minute mark on a Lou Williams drive, but the Jazz proved steady at the line with four free throws while holding their opponent without a field goal to push the lead back to nine with 1:04 to go. Williams answered with a triple but Boris Diaw dealt the dagger with a nifty baseline drive. Rudy Gobert then got his season-high sixth block at the buzzer to seal the win.
George Hill and Alec Burks were the only other Jazz players in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively, but Utah still managed to end a two-game skid and improve to 29-18. Gobert added 13 rebounds and nine points to his tally.
Williams had 20 points off the bench to lead the Lakers (16-34), who have lost three in a row and eight of their last nine games. Jordan Clarkson added 16, while rookie Ivica Zubac had his best game after also scoring 16 and adding 10 rebounds.