Gordon Hayward was dazzling, but looked dazed. There were 40 seconds left on the clock. The Miami Heat, defending world champions, who say they get everyone's best effort now that they are, in fact, world champions, needed a timeout.
Hayward jogged lightly off the court, smiled wanly and met Earl Watson in mid-air for a body bump. Jamaal Tinsley walked hands on hips, confident that the Jazz had dealt a final blow in front of 19,911 screaming, standing fans at EnergySolutions Arena.
Following a behind-the-back crossover move against Ray Allen this programming made possible by support from Paul Millsap's offensive rebounding Hayward fell away from the basket, swishing from just inside the free-throw line a shot that allowed the Jazz to pull away from the defending-champion Miami Heat, win 104-97 and preserve their most hair-raising performance of the season.
Earlier Monday, LeBron James singled out Hayward, when praising the Jazz, as "a really good player."
Hours later, the third-year guard exceeded the measured praise.
"I just made a move," Hayward said, "tried to make something happen. Worked on the move during the summer and it went in."
Al Jefferson led the Jazz with 23 points and 11 rebounds, but it was Hayward, his 22 points and his late-game prowess for which this one will be remembered. Hayward scored 10 of his team's last 14 points in the final 4:51 in a game the Jazz, at one point, led by 21 points. But this being the Jazz and the opponent being the Heat that lead was not safe.
James finished with 32 points, leaving him 18 shy of 20,000 for his career, and led a fourth-quarter comeback that saw the Heat cut the lead to 93-91, but Hayward's running jumper with 3:13 remaining restored order.
Having already blown a 15-point lead days earlier in a loss at Atlanta, and nearly wasting a 13-point edge in a narrow win Saturday in Detroit, the Jazz seemed on the verge of their worst collapse of the season.
"I'm just glad we were able to hang on. You know, we blew the lead in Atlanta, so it was good to get this one," Hayward said.
Without Hayward, the Jazz were just 1-of-12 from the field in the quarter.
"G's been doing it all year," forward Marvin Williams said.
But January has been especially kind to the reserve guard. Entering Monday he averaged 14.9 points per game in the month. Now, the Jazz are 7-2 since the calendar turned, and the schedule gets more favorable with 14 of the team's next 19 games at home.
The game was in stark contrast to Dec. 22 in Miami, when the Jazz lost 105-89 and played from behind nearly the entire game. There, the Jazz big men were non-factors, and the Jazz were outrebounded by a Heat team that was without Chris Bosh.
On Monday, the Jazz won the rebounding battle 40-23, Jefferson posted a dominant third quarter and the Utah big men combined for 54 points.
In the last week, the Jazz have been accused by one coach of "thugging it up" and labeled by another as "instigators." On Monday, in the first half at least, they were simply better.
And while Hayward was the star late, that label early in the game went to DeMarre Carroll. Often overlooked in the Jazz rotation, the self-proclaimed "junkyard dog" scored 12 points in the first half.
From the time Carroll entered the game with 4:24 remaining in the first quarter, to two plays after he left in the second quarter, the Jazz scored on 17 of their 19 possessions. An 18-17 deficit flipped into a 54-38 lead.
Carroll played early minutes, coach Tyrone Corbin said, because Marvin Williams was "a little gimpy to get his legs back under him" following three games off to rest an inflamed right knee.
The Jazz shot 67.6 percent from the field in the first half, and finished the game at 47.4 percent. The Heat, thanks to their surge in the fourth quarter shot 54.2 percent from the field.
Storylines Handling the Heat
R The Jazz beat Miami for the third time in their last four games in Salt Lake.
• LeBron James scores 32 points and helps the Heat cut the lead to 93-91, but the Jazz get a boost from Gordon Hayward.