For only the fourth time since he opted to leave Utah to play for the Boston Celtics, Gordon Hayward is expected to face his former team in Salt Lake City on Monday night when his Charlotte Hornets take on the Jazz.
Hayward returned to the Hornets’ lineup Saturday after missing eight games with left hamstring soreness. He scored nine points in Charlotte’s 122-118 victory at Atlanta.
The Hornets have now won two straight, both on the road, after a five-game losing streak.
“We certainly have to learn how to win,” Hayward said. “In this league it’s difficult, and we’ve got to take every win we can right now and try to build on it and improve on the things we didn’t do well, and keep doing the things that we did well.”
One thing that went really well against the Hawks: Terry Rozier.
Rozier ignited a second-half comeback for the Hornets, scoring 28 of his 34 points in the final 24 minutes of action. His three free throws sealed the win with 1.1 seconds remaining.
That helped Charlotte overcome a 19-point deficit in the third quarter, leading to consecutive wins for only the second time this season. A win at Utah would give the Hornets their first three-game winning streak of the 2022-23 campaign.
“We are just trying to put wins together,” Rozier said. “Teams are probably looking at us and looking at our record, probably looking at it like an off night to relax. We are coming in and we are just trying to play hard and control what we can control. Obviously, our last two games we were able to do that and get a win, so we are just looking forward and hopefully we can keep doing that.”
Because of injuries and playing in the Eastern Conference, Hayward has had a limited number of appearances in Utah after his move to the Celtics. He has averaged 15.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds in the three games he’s played in the Beehive State, where he spent the first seven years of his NBA career and reached All-Star status.
The Jazz squandered an opportunity to pick up a third straight win Friday night when they were outplayed in the fourth quarter of a 117-106 home loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving scored 48 points, including 21 in the pivotal fourth quarter.
That prevented Utah from notching its first winning streak of at least three games since early November. The Jazz had won four of five after going through a slump.
“In the second half, we just weren’t very focused on getting back and protecting the basket,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “We got a little bit wrapped up in trying to focus on the ball, and we let guys get behind us.”
To prevent that from happening again, the Jazz will need to play with a more physical style that Hardy believed they lacked against Brooklyn.
“Credit to Brooklyn. … They played far more physical than we did tonight and that’s why they won,” Hardy said. “They were very physical with us when we had the ball. We gave into their physicality on that end of the floor and it bled into our defense. … We let their physicality bother us.”
–Field Level Media