(Salt Lake City, UT) — Gordon Hayward’s jumper at the buzzer gave the Utah Jazz a 103-100 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night, wiping out a furious fourth quarter comeback by the Cavs that seemed ready to send the game into overtime.
With the score 98-94 in favor of the Jazz, LeBron James hit a three from deep in the left corner to chop the deficit to one with 13.9 seconds left. Cleveland then fouled Utah, which converted on both free throw attempts to make it 100-97 with eight seconds remaining.
With no time outs, James drove down the court and caused an uproar when he forced a foul on Derrick Favors in three-point range by leaning in before getting off a shot attempt. That gave him three free throws, which he converted, setting the stage for Hayward’s heroics.
James finished the night with 31 points, but was topped by Kyrie Irving, who bounced back from a miserable performance on Tuesday to toss in 34.
Irving said after the game, “I just took what the defense gave me.” He also spoke about the team’s slow start by describing them as “growing pains we have to go through.” In reference to the comeback, Irving said, “We got stops when we needed to. It just shows what we can accomplish.”
The Cleveland defense again had problems stopping their opponents’ ball movement, which led to 58 percent shooting from the field in the first half by Utah. With regard to assists, Utah dished out 26 on the night while the Cavs managed a franchise-low six.
Overall, slow starts to each of the halves proved to be the killer to the Cavaliers. In the third quarter, the Cavs were outscored 7-2 in the first 2:20 to give the Jazz their biggest lead of the game at 66-50. Over the next two minutes, Cleveland made little headway as Enes Kanter’s layup put the score at 70-57 with 7:45 left in the quarter.
At that point, the Cavaliers woke up, putting together a 14-2 run that ended on Tristan Thompson’s tip-in with 2:11 to go in the third to make it 72-71. However, the Cavs couldn’t get over the hump during the remainder of the stanza, with James’ bid to take the lead on a layup attempt with 10.9 seconds to go, blocked by Rudy Gobert to maintain the Jazz’s 76-75 advantage.
The Cavaliers took their first lead of the night with 5:29 to play when Irving’s running layup made it 87-85 in their favor. Just one minute earlier, Kevin Love‘s two free throws had tied the game for the first time since the first few minutes of the game.
Cleveland had taken its biggest lead of the game after James’ jumper made it 89-86 with 4:43 remaining, but Utah then scored the next seven points, making it 93-89 with 3:11 to play. The final three points were devastating since Utah had less than two seconds to get off a shot. Trevor Booker was able to hit the trey anyway.
Booker was then assessed a flagrant foul after hitting Love in the face, who split two free throws to make it 93-90. Getting the ball, the Cavaliers couldn’t convert as Irving’s jumper was blocked, with Utah pushing the lead back up to six at 96-90 with 1:29 to go.
Cavs head coach David Blatt said simply about Hayward’s game-winning shot, “He was guarded. He hit a great shot,” but noted some of these positives in the loss: “The way we fought down the stretch and the way we executed.”
In the first quarter, the Cavaliers fell behind early at 5-0 before two baskets by Love knotted the score. Utah then tallied nine of the next 12 points before the two teams traded baskets over the next few minutes.
Soon after, the Jazz had multiple double-digit leads, aided by four Cavalier turnovers during the quarter. Utah had an opportunity to go up 34-20 in the final 15 seconds of the quarter. However, a missed shot led to Irving connecting on a three-point buzzer beater to make it 34-23 after one quarter of action.
When the two teams took the court again, the first few moments of the second quarter saw the Cavs get no closer than nine on two occasions before then watching Utah push the lead back up to 14 at 41-27 with 9:59 to go before halftime.
The Jazz would then maintain that double-digit lead for more than seven minutes, capped by a three from Rodney Hood with 2:43 remaining before halftime to boost their advantage 54-40.
Cleveland proceeded to run off seven straight points to make it 54-47, with three Utah turnovers contributing to the mini-comeback. The final turnover then helped lead to a controversy when James drove to the basket, and was in the midst of putting in a layup. Hayward blocked the shot, but despite replays later showing that the ball had already touched the backboard, no goaltending call was made. The Jazz would eventually take a 59-48 halftime lead.
After the game, James said that the officials told him after the fact that goaltending should have been called, but was philosophical about it saying, “It was a bang-bang play, and we didn’t get the call.”
In discussing the slow start, James said, “We dug ourselves a hole and that’s just the karma of the game,” but saw some positives by noting, “What we did well we can build on. We just have to find out a way to help each other out,” then acknowledged that team-building was a work in progress: “Rome wasn’t built in a day. We just have to work the process.”
Veteran Shawn Marion started in place of Dion Waiters after the latter’s struggles in Portland on Tuesday night. After the game, Marion noted the problems in trying to establish new team chemistry by saying, “Everyone’s not comfortable with each other. We’re still in an adjustment period,” then added, “It’s a timing thing. The first thing we have to do is play hard.”
Blatt used only eight players, with backup guard Matthew Dellavedova out after suffering a knee injury that is expected to keep him out for six weeks.
Cleveland now drops to 1-3 on the year, while the Jazz improve to 2-3. The Cavaliers now head to Denver for a Friday night clash that will close out the team’s four game road trip. The contest will be televised nationally by ESPN as the second half of their weekly doubleheader. Coverage will begin at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.