Gordon Hayward was red-hot Tuesday night.
In multiple ways.
While sporting a farmer's sunburn acquired from too much off-day time by the beach, the rookie scorched the nets and roasted the Los Angeles Lakers with a career-best outing in the Utah Jazz's stunning 86-85 victory at Staples Center.
Hayward set a new career-high with 22 points — eclipsing the previous mark he'd set only two days earlier — on 9-for-14 shooting.
After missing a first attempt, Hayward swished a second free throw with 6.0 seconds remaining. Because Kobe Bryant — hounded by Hayward — lost control of the ball on the Lakers' ensuing possession, that freebie proved to the game-winner.
"It was fun," a smiling Hayward said in an unusually chipper Jazz locker room. "When you're out there competing, especially against Kobe Bryant — growing up you idolize him — so it was a lot of fun."
The rookie won over at least one fan in L.A.
"I'm very, very fond of him. He's a very skilled all-around player," Bryant said. "I think he is going to have a very bright future in this league. (Hayward) reminds me of a more talented Jeff Hornacek. Jeff couldn't put the ball on the floor as well as he can."
Fun isn't a word that has been used around the Jazz much lately, but there were plenty of smiles after this one.
Despite playing with only nine healthy players — and then seeing C.J. Miles tweak his ankle a bit — the Jazz snapped a couple of fun-sapping slumps.
Utah — boosted by Hayward and fellow rookie lottery pick Derrick Favors (14 points, 11 rebounds) — won for the first time since March 16 in Minnesota, ending a season-worst eight-game skid.
Jazz stun Lakers 86-85 behind 22 from Hayward
The Deseret News | Apr 6