Gordon Hayward is returning to his home state with some momentum.
The leading scorer for the Utah Jazz turned in some late heroics his last time out as he looks to help his visiting club hand the short-handed Indiana Pacers a seventh straight loss Monday night.
Hayward is a native of Brownsburg, Indiana, and starred in college in Indianapolis at Butler, leading the underdog school to the first of consecutive NCAA title game appearances in 2010 before he turned pro. He is averaging 10.5 points in four career road games against the Pacers, scoring 21 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last season to match his total from his first three NBA games there.
Utah (3-4) used a big finish by Hayward to open this five-game trip with Sunday’s 97-96 win at Detroit. Hayward scored 11 of his 17 points in the final five minutes, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 4:01 to play and a go-ahead 3 two minutes later.
”It shows a lot that he can have an average game for three quarters and then show up when it counts,” coach Quin Snyder said. ”That’s one of the strengths of this team.”
The Jazz won for the third time in their last 18 road games. They held the Pistons to 38.7 percent – a season best for Utah after it entered the contest fourth-worst in the NBA in that department at 48.2.
"Collectively I think these guys have a lot of pride and we’re starting to get some stops," Snyder said. "We needed some juice on defense."
Derrick Favors had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Enes Kanter 14 and 11. Those players could enjoy a major advantage inside if Pacers center Roy Hibbert misses his first game.
Hibbert bruised his left knee in the first quarter of Saturday’s 97-90 home loss to Washington and did not return. The big man averages a team-best 8.3 rebounds and is second in the NBA with 3.7 blocks per game.
He is part of a lengthy Pacers injury list. The closest to returning are former Jazz swingman C.J. Miles, who has missed two straight games due to migraines, and Rodney Stuckey, who has missed three in a row with a strained foot.
Indiana (1-6) is seeking to avoid its first seven-game slide since dropping eight straight Dec. 18-30, 2009. The Pacers are also hoping to avoid their worst start since a franchise-worst 1-11 mark in 1988-89.
The shortened roster caused the NBA to give Indiana a hardship exemption, as the club signed A.J. Price over the weekend. The lack of numbers has caused less heralded players, including Solomon Hill, to step up.
Hill is a second-year guard who scored a career-high 28 points against the Wizards.
"Solomon played his heart out," coach Frank Vogel said. "He played terrific. He’s going to be a big part of what we do this year."
Indiana’s lineup the last two games has also included Chris Copeland, who averages a team-high 16.7 points after coming off the bench the first five games.