That which is lost can sometimes be found. That is, the Utah Jazz lost what makes them who they are for a while this week — their defense — but they found it in time to win 105-98 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.
The Jazz' win over the Nuggets is big — primarily because it's a division victory as well as one that counts in the NBA standings. But in the grand scheme of things, the Jazz needed this win after losing a tough one to Miami a few nights earlier. Here are three reasons why.
After getting 32 points from the former Butler Bulldogs star two nights previous, the Jazz again needed Hayward to step up for them — because they were again missing George Hill and Derrick Favors. Without that patented attacking assistance, more of it was on the shoulders of Hayward, who scored 32 points — again. Was this Groundhog Day? Not quite, but Hayward did see the shadows of the basket enough to do some serious damage to Denver.
In the spirit of the holidays, the Jazz finally played some defense this week — even if it took them almost the entire game to do so. Denver threatened with about two minutes left, but the Jazz held firm, forcing two key turnovers in the final 1:30 to ice down the victory.
Phenomenal Free Throws
The Jazz had one other thing going for them against Denver: they couldn't miss free throws. Utah knocked down 26 of 28 attempts from the charity stripe, giving new meaning to being hot. In fact, the Jazz were so money from the foul line that they buried six crucial shots from there in the final minute to give them the win.