Hayward leads balanced Jazz past Suns, 109-86
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)
Gordon Hayward needed just one assist for his first career triple-double. Despite his teammates' playful pushes, he didn't ask to re-enter the game.
''G ain't gonna lobby. He was just like, `It's alright, guys.' C'mon man!'' teammate Richard Jefferson said. ''He has been through a lot this year and he deserved that accomplishment.''
Instead, Hayward watched the final 6:15 from the bench.
''G got so many of us involved with the assists he had. We were moving and sharing the ball tonight,'' said Jefferson, who finished with 17 points.
Diante Garrett added a career-high 15 points as the Jazz had seven players with 10 points or more in their largest margin of victory this season. Utah shot 57.5 percent from the field, the highest mark of any Phoenix opponent this season.
Gerald Green had 17 points and rookie Archie Goodwin matched his career-best with 16 for the Suns, who shot 38.8 percent with some shots way off the mark.
''That was the whole game plan. We knew they were a good transition team so we made sure we got back on defense and stop the easy baskets. We wanted to make them try and do something else,'' Utah's Derrick Favors said.
Playing their only road game in a nine-game stretch, the Suns have been looking to improve their playoff position. However, with a third straight loss, Phoenix leads Memphis by just one-half game for the eighth and final Western Conference berth.
''Defensively, the last three games we've given up 115, 114 and 109 points to teams that usually average 94,'' Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. ''We're a fast-breaking team that relies on getting stops and getting steals. When we don't do that, we struggle.''
Hayward, mired in a shooting slump (31 percent in his previous 13 games), made plays all over the court in this one.
''It's been a rough stretch. I've been working hard and spending extra time in the gym and tonight things came a little easier,'' Hayward said.
Getting so close and falling short of the vaunted triple-double mark didn't seem to bother Hayward.
''It just didn't work out. I'm just glad we got the win,'' Hayward said. ''It was a blowout game and we had the big lead so you don't want to risk anything.''
Goran Dragic did not dress due to a sprained ankle and the Suns missed his playmaking abilities. Dragic twisted his right ankle in the third quarter in a loss to Minnesota on Tuesday and will have the injury re-evaluated on Thursday.
Ish Smith had 13 points and five assists but the Jazz didn't respect his outside shooting and the defense wasn't spread like it would have been with Dragic. The Suns were 6 of 19 on 3-pointers.
''Right now, we're just in a little funk,'' Green said.
The Jazz turned a five-point lead into a 72-57 advantage thanks a 12-2 run and a 5:08 stretch where they held the Suns without a field goal.
The Jazz broke it open in the fourth quarter as Garrett showed the skills he wished the Suns could have seen last season. Garrett was a late pickup for the Jazz this season after playing 19 games for Phoenix in 2012-13. Garrett had 11 points in the first five minutes of the fourth period to push the Jazz lead to 95-73.
''Playing against your former teammates . and hearing those guys talk smack on the sidelines, it's really fun to make some shots out there,'' Garrett said. ''I'll remember this.''
Favors scored 15 points in his second game back from a hip injury and Alec Burks scored 15 and Jeremy Evans had 11 in reserve roles. The Jazz outscored the Suns 50-36 in the paint and were equally adept from beyond the arc, making 9 of 18 attempts.
After allowing a 35-point fourth quarter against the Timberwolves on Tuesday, the Suns' defense was again porous against the Jazz. Utah players often beat their Phoenix counterparts down the courts and were one step quicker to the hoop on drives.
Though the Jazz are buried near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the starting lineup of Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Favors, Hayward and Trey Burke improved to 18-9 on the season.
NOTES: Morris got a technical in the third quarter for yelling at official Zach Zarba after he was called for a foul on Jefferson's attempted dunk. ... The Suns' largest lead was one point. ... The Jazz outscored the Suns in every quarter. ... Utah's previous largest margin of victory was 21 points, accomplished first in a 122-101 win at Sacramento on Dec. 11 and matched in a 110-89 win at Detroit on Jan. 17. ... Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek played for the Jazz from 1994-2000 and served as an assistant coach with Utah from 2011-13. His No. 14 jersey number hangs in the rafters.