Hayward's 22 helps Jazz keep pace in West with win over SunsPosted: Updated:
The Utah Jazz are over .500 for the first time in almost two months at 39-38, and Sunday was an important step toward the playoffs in beating a team with only 20 wins.
Gordon Hayward led five Utah players in double figures with 22 points, and the Jazz boosted their playoff chances with a 101-86 win over the Phoenix Suns.
Rodney Hood added 18 points, Derrick Favors had 17, Trey Lyles 13 and Rudy Gobert 12 for the Jazz, who scored 26 points off 22 Suns turnovers and committed only 10 turnovers themselves.
"We scored off our defense and we got going from there," Hayward said. "We closed it out, we won the game and it was a big game for us."
The Jazz, who have won four of five, pulled into a tie for the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoff race with the Dallas Mavericks, who also won on Sunday. The Houston Rockets remained a game behind Utah and Dallas with their win Sunday. All three teams have five regular-season games remaining.
Utah has to play three potential playoff teams out of the five.
"I said before you will make yourself crazy following other teams," coach Quin Snyder said. "That is the way it is now and we have to take care of the things we can control."
Mirza Teletovic led the Suns with 24 points, and Tyson Chandler added a season-high 21 to go with 18 rebounds. Phoenix has lost six straight.
"It's been a year," Chandler said. "Who cares how many games are left? It's about going out there and getting better."
Utah led by 10 going into the fourth quarter and went ahead 83-68 on Chris Johnson's fast-break dunk with 9:05 left in the game. They maintained a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
The Jazz made only six of 23 shots in the first quarter and trailed 23-16 going into the second. Chandler had eight points and six rebounds in the opening quarter as the Suns led by as many as 10.
But Utah went on an 18-0 run in the second quarter to take a 44-30 lead. Trevor Booker's follow dunk off Gobert's miss with 5:44 to play was the highlight of that run, and Phoenix turned the ball over five times.
The Suns went scoreless for seven minutes of the quarter, a drought broken by Devin Booker's basket with 59 seconds left. Utah led 46-33 at halftime.
"It's our defense. We know that's our calling card," Hood said. "We're really helping each other out and making people take tough shots and we're just living with the results."
Added Teletovic: "We have to take care of the ball more. They converted 26 points off turnovers. It's very tough to play like that."
Phoenix rallied to cut the lead to four, 53-49, early in the third quarter after three 3-pointers from P.J. Tucker. But Utah went back up 66-53 on Hood's 3-pointer at the 4:01 mark.
All of Hood's points came from six made 3s, the most ever without a two-point basket by a Jazz player in a game.
JAZZ: Favors returned to the Jazz starting lineup after missing Friday's game against Minnesota with right knee soreness. ... Hayward has missed only two games this season. "He doesn't talk a lot about it personally, but he certainly injects it into our group," Snyder said of Hayward's leadership and competitive nature. ... The Jazz have held 14 of their last 16 opponents under 100 points and are 11-5 in that span. ... The Jazz swept the Suns in four regular-season meetings for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
SUNS: G Brandon Knight (sports hernia) and F Jon Leuer (right ankle sprain) each missed their second straight game. "I can't live with myself putting our players at risk for further injury just to secure a job," Suns interim head coach Earl Watson said. "Whatever is best for Brandon is best for our entire program." ... The Suns' 10 second-quarter points were only one more than their season low for a quarter. ... The Suns got eight points from their bench outside of Teletovic's 24.
Jazz: At San Antonio on Tuesday.
Suns: At Atlanta on Tuesday.