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AP PHOTOS: A selection of pictures from the past week

28 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Utah Jazz notes: Hayward, Jazz hope win over Clippers a confidence booster.

“Yeah, I thought we played extremely well as a team,” Hayward said when asked if that was the best 48-minute performance the Jazz have had so far this year. “We defended.SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward finally had that breakout game that Jazz fans had anxiously been waiting for, and media types had been incessantly yammering about for the past month. And even though his coaches, teammates and the team’s front office wouldn’t say so publicly, insisting all along they weren’t the least bit concerned with their star player’s early season scoring struggles, they had to be downright delighted — and perhaps just a little bit relieved — to see the sixth-year forward drop a season-best 33 points on the Clippers in Utah’s impressive 102-91 win against Los Angeles on Wednesday night. “I hit some shots,” he said matter of factly. “(I’ve) still got to just be aggressive and look for the time to get my looks and get my shots. (I was) just competing more than anything, just wanted to win.” “I got a lot of good looks,” he said. “When that happens, it’s a lot easier instead of always starting with a couple of fadeaway 2s or some tough floaters.

Statements that have become commonplace among a bombastic minority of Utah Jazz fans that, for whatever reason, have convinced themselves that rookie point guard Raul Neto is doomed to fail. In the meantime, the Brazilian is slowly, but surely transforming himself from a not ready for primetime player to one of the best rookies in the NBA and an every game contributor for the Jazz.

In that 33-point outburst on the road — his top three scoring performances thus far this season have all come away from home — Hayward hit 11 of 22 shots from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. And yet, much of the talk coming out of the game was focused on CP3’s breaking of Jazz center Rudy Gobert‘s ankles with some fancy dribble work and a step back jumper.

Then, on Wednesday, Gobert became the victim in another highlight when Clippers point guard Chris Paul caused Gobert to fall down while defending him on the perimeter. The replay showed that Paul pushed Gobert and the Jazz center tripped over Paul’s foot. “Rudy’s been through a lot lately,” Favors said with a grin. “… I didn’t even ask him about it.

Moreover, the 23-year-old outplayed future Hall of Famer Chris Paul during a key stretch in the second half, igniting a 16-2 third quarter run that helped the Jazz secure a difficult road victory. Was Gobert’s defense truly rendered null by Paul’s master handles or was it a hard shove from the All-Star point man that sent the Stifle Tower tumbling? He’s still a rookie, his inexperience will continue to show and his confidence will occasionally need the kind of boost he got from Jazz coach Quin Snyder on Wednesday.

Over his last four games, though, Hayward has averaged 22.8 points, 6 rebounds and 1.5 steals each night — perhaps an indication that he’s getting into a rhythm after a somewhat shaky start. “To be honest with you, he was doing the same things (Wednesday night) that he’s been doing for the last week,” Snyder said. “We tend to look at those things and say he’s doing something different when he’s successful doing them. In fact, even as fans clamor for Exum’s return, Neto is turning in a rookie season eerily similar to the one served up by Utah’s erstwhile Aussie. Still, when asked about the play after practice on Friday, the other half of Utah’s twin towers, Derrick Favors, may have intimated that his teammate was simply out of his element on the play.

And it wasn’t just hitting some shots, it was being ready to make the right play, and you could see that in his countenance. “He has been banging on the door (of having a big night) for some time,” Snyder said. “He hasn’t been playing as well as he can, but we saw (Wednesday night) how he threw himself into the game. Is Faves recusing himself here, pleading the fifth or is the lack of confirmation on the CP3 push-off an actual confirmation that the Jazz power forward feels that Gobert just got smoked in the situation? Neto’s defensive rating and assist percentage (91.4 and 22.4 respectively) both dwarf Exum’s performance in the same areas (99.0 and 16.9) Moreover, Neto currently ranks second only to Toronto’s Kyle Lowry in real defensive plus-minus; Exum ranked 23rd last season. His ability to pressure opposing point guards and his decision-making on offense both suggest that Neto could enjoy a long and productive career in the Association.

Thus, while Hayward might not always be piling up plenty of points for himself, he’s helping his teammates do so with solid all-around play and aggressive play on the offensive end of the court. “I think in some respects, he’s aggressive but not always aggressive for his own baskets,” the Jazz coach said. “He’s aggressive to score but willing to lead and see what options that creates. And, if Wednesday’s stellar results were any indication of things to come, it might become the norm moving forward, beginning with tonight’s home game against the New Orleans Pelicans (7 p.m. at Vivint Arena). “That game required Gordon’s presence,” he added regarding Hayward’s 40 minutes of playing time, “and some of it was because he was playing really well and when a guy gets going like that it makes sense that night to let him play more.”

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