Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz out-dueled LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Entering Tuesday night’s bout between the Utah Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers, much was made of the fact that LeBron James had lost in his previous five visits to Vivint Smart Home Arena. It was a streak that undoubtedly provided the Cavs star with some extra motivation heading into the game.
However, the King wasn’t the only one motivated to get a win.
After losing three of their last four games during a road stretch that saw them play five games in seven nights, Gordon Hayward and the Jazz had their sights on a statement win. And while James is probably the best player on the planet, he wasn’t the best player on the court against the Jazz.
That honor went to Hayward, who paced the Jazz in a 100-92 win to extend James’ Salt Lake losing streak to six.
It was clear from the opening quarter that the Jazz were ready to play the defending champs. Derrick Favors came out strong, scoring eight points in the early going to help his team match the Cavaliers blow for blow. At the end of the first quarter, the game was level at 29.
The second period is when things really broke open for Utah. After missing 10 of their first 12 three-point attempts, the Jazz began to hit from behind the arc while putting the clamps on defensively. Overall, the Jazz won the quarter 27-12 after closing with 10 unanswered points.
Going into halftime, the Jazz led 56-41 and had held the Cavs to 34 percent shooting. Strangely, they had done most of their damage with LeBron in the game. After two quarters, the former MVP had committed four turnovers and Cleveland was outscored by 20 when he was on the floor.
A big key to James’ lack of impact was the defense of Joe Ingles. After the Aussie checked into the game, the Jazz went on a 21-6 run and James was held scoreless for the remainder of the half. Meanwhile, Hayward had scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting going into the break.
In the third quarter, Hayward and James would exchange haymakers as their respective teams surged.
First it was James and the Cavs, who used a 17-0 run to give themselves a 60-58 lead before a Tristan Thompson goaltending call inadvertently stopped Utah’s bleeding. The game was officially back on.
Enter Hayward, who went on a scoring run of his own, hitting two three-pointers in the process to propel the Jazz to a 16-0 streak. Just like that, it was back up to double digits and Hayward and Co. were back in control. The Jazz star finished with 11 third-quarter points in response to a 13-point carom from James.
After the two had exchanged their blows, the Jazz still led 75-66 going into the final period.
The teams would trade buckets throughout the fourth quarter, until a late run by the Cavs made things interesting. Cleveland even managed to cut the lead to six with under three minutes left, but a three-pointer by Rodney Hood broke their 14-4 scamper and the Jazz band never looked back.
While James had a game-high 29 points, Hayward had one of his better nights as a Jazzman. He finished with 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting, 4-of-5 from three and added nine rebounds.
Among Utah’s supporting players, Hood was big, scoring 18 points and hitting four three-pointers in what was his best outing in several weeks. Rudy Gobert also stood out, scoring 11 points and grabbing 14 rebounds for another double-double. The Jazz finished with six players in double figures overall.