In game 1 of the Utah Jazz first-round series vs the Los Angeles Clippers, Gordon Hayward struggled to get going vs Luc Mbah a Moute. He shot 7 of 18 from the field for 19 points, and in the 4th quarter he had a number of miscues. He shot 1 of 5 from the field, 1 of 1 from the free throw line, and had 3 rebounds and a turnover in 7:43 of playing time. The Jazz pulled out the win, but overall the 4th quarter was a bad stretch of basketball for Hayward.
In game 2, a game in which he shot just 5 of 15 from the field for 20 points, we saw another lackluster 4th quarter performance from Hayward. In the 4th quarter, Hayward went 1 of 3 from the field, 2 of 2 from the line, had 2 rebounds and an assist in 8:42.
Game 3 was Hayward’s incredible 40 point game, but Gordon was pretty bad in the 4th quarter. He shot 1 of 4 from the field and 2 of 2 from the line to go along with 2 rebounds and 2 turnovers in 9:48.
Game 4 was Hayward’s food poisoning/flu game. He played just 9 minutes and went 1 of 3 from the field for 3 points. He did not play in the 4th quarter.
This seemed to be the turning point for Gordon. He wasn’t performing well and he knew it. He had faced some adversity along the way, with a handful of calls and no-calls not going his way, Mbah a Moute hounding him on defense, and food poisoning forcing him to miss a key game in the series . He was likely frustrated with his performance and disappointed that the series was deadlocked at 2-2. They had already blown a 4th quarter lead to allow a game to slip away. Hayward asserted himself, determined to show the NBA that he is a legit top-flight option, and that the team around him was a legitimate contender ready to knock down doors and kick ass.
In game 5, Hayward scored 27 points on 9 of 16 from the field, 4 of 8 from 3, and a perfect 5 for 5 from the free throw line, along with 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. In 8:59 of playing time in the 4th quarter, Hayward scored 9 points (2 of 2 from the field, 4 of 4 from the line), pulled down 2 key rebounds, and had an assist.
In game 6, a closeout game at home, Hayward scored 31 points on 9 of 20 from the field, 3 of 9 from 3, and 10 of 11 from the line to go along with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. This is the first game in which Hayward was on the floor to start the 4th quarter, and in the first 2:19 of action he missed his only field goal attempt and had no other stats. He re-entered the game at the 7:16 mark and scored 15 points on 3 of 5 from the field (2 of 2 from 3) and 7 of 7 from the line, along with 2 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 turnover. Let me emphasis here. Hayward scored 15 of the final 19 points for Utah in the final 7~ minutes.
Game 7. Where legends are made. Hayward scored 26 points on 9 of 20 from the field, 2 of 3 from 3, and 6 of 6 from the line to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Hayward played the final 10:25 in this game, and his performance was legendary. He went 5 of 6 from the field, including an and-one (which he converted). He grabbed 4 highly contested rebounds. He did have two turnovers, at least one of which was horribly bad home-cooking from the refs, and another terrible call on a defensive foul to allow an and-one for Jamal Crawford. But Hayward overcame all that to score 11 points during the closing stretch of the game to seal the series victory.
Gordon Hayward really turned things around in this series. After a mixed bag in the first 4 games (some subpar performances, some great performances with poor 4th quarters), Hayward stepped up in the final 3 games and put forth Herculean effort to will his team to a victory. In games 5, 6, and 7, Hayward scored 28 points on 48/45/95 shooting, with 7.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.3 steals. But the 4th quarter is where his numbers really stand out. In the 4th quarter of the final 3 games, Hayward averaged 11.7 points on 77/100/100 shooting (that is not a typo) and pulled down 2.7 rebounds.
He made tough shots. He drew fouls. He played intelligent basketball. He willed his team to a series victory.
I fully expect Gordon Hayward to be wearing a Jazz uniform next season. He and Rudy are the cornerstones around which Dennis Lindsey will build a Utah Jazz empire.