In a week with only two games, the Utah Jazz managed to make it interesting. With games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning one of the two games may have been viewed as a good week. The Jazz continue to have close to a .500 record since their 1-14 start. Over that time frame, Utah has had a mostly healthy core. Without a lot of roster depth, the Jazz have continued to have trouble when injuries strike. In Utah’s loss this week, Gordon Hayward was rested due to a minor strain to his hip flexor. Though Utah has certainly played much better after their terrible 1-14 start, they remain the worst team in the West record wise. It’s possible that Utah may continue to rest key players if they are not entirely healthy, in the effort of achieving a better draft pick.
Tuesday, Jan. 7: Utah Jazz 112 – 101 Oklahoma City Thunder
Yes, the Jazz beat the Thunder. However, the Thunder were without Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Having said that, Oklahoma City was the best team in the Western Conference up to that point and certainly would have been the favorite to beat the worst in the conference. The Jazz came out looking like the team that expected to win, carrying a double-digit lead into halftime. Utah began the third by continuing to outplay the Thunder, pushing the lead closer to 20 points. Kevin Durant‘s imminent takeover took place at that point, and the game was competitive again in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. As Jazz fans started to hold their breath, Gordon Hayward came to the rescue. In a performance that was exactly what Utah hoped they would get out of Hayward this year, Gordon closed the game with 17 straight points for the Jazz in the fourth to close out the game. Hayward finished with 37 points on 13-of-16 shooting, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one blocked shot. Hayward was super efficient in contrast to an inefficient Kevin Durant. Durant did score 48 points, but needed 34 shots and 19 free throws to get there.
Friday, Jan. 10: Cleveland Cavaliers 113 – 102 Utah Jazz
This game was nearly a mirror image of Tuesday’s game for Utah. Though the Jazz were actually leading by three at halftime, Cleveland went on a tremendous run in the third quarter, scoring 39 points. With a lead bouncing around 20, Cleveland didn’t have to worry too much after that. Though the Jazz inched closer, Cleveland was deep into their garbage time roster by then. As mentioned above, Gordon Hayward missed the game, his first of the season. Again, it’s very clear that the Jazz need a near full roster to be competitive, so it will be very interesting to see how the Jazz’s “tank rank” progresses for the rest of the season. Enes Kanter finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz. Trey Burke played well too, scoring 17 points with six assists.