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Boston • Gordon Hayward doesn't just have the talent to be a game-changer. He's becoming one.
The No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft was the Jazz's best player Wednesday during a 94-82 loss to the Celtics. He scored a team-high 19 points, while being second in rebounds (seven) and assists (five).
Then there were his two blocks.
When Boston suddenly turned a 66-all fourth-quarter tie into a 73-66 lead, Celtics guard Keyon Dooling stole the ball at midcourt and raced home for an easy layup. Until G-Man started flying.
Hayward smoothly tracked Dooling's path, perfectly timed his leap, then coldly swatted away a gimme shot that would've given Boston a nine-point advantage.
Five seconds later, the just-turned-22-year-old from Butler was flying again. This time, a greedy Avery Bradley was the victim. Ray Allen's replacement collected Hayward's initial block and tried to toss in a quick putback. The Jazzman hit the replay button. Hayward destroyed Bradley's layup, and Utah still had life.
"Anytime you can chase down a guy like that and go up for a block he's not really ready for you to come from behind like that," said Hayward, who allowed himself to briefly indulge with a tight smile while recounting his swats.
"That second one, you just want to contest his shot," he said. "I'm just trying to bring my team some energy."
It was the second time in 11 days Hayward's pulled off a jawdropper normally associated with NBA elite such as LeBron James.
During a Jazz win against Golden State on March 17, Hayward blocked a shot, then raced the length of the court for a power slam.
"I saw the first one [Wednesday] coming from a mile away," Jazz forward C.J. Miles said. "He loves to chase people down like that. … He's sneaky-athletic. People don't realize [it]."
Boston coach Doc Rivers said Utah center Al Jefferson brought out the best in Kevin Garnett, who scored a game-high 23 points for the Celtics.
Jefferson gave Garnett serious respect. But he also said what many have long stated: KG yaps louder and more than anyone in the game.
"I think he like to listen to [himself] speak," Jefferson said. "But other than that, he's a very talented player."
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was in fine form Wednesday, dishing out a game-high 14 assists and pulling out a variety of ball-fakes that left Utah helpless.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said Rondo simply did what he was expected to. But Utah point guard Devin Harris saw something special.
"For a guy that can control the game the way that he can control the game without really scoring is phenomenal," Harris said. "He impacts the game in so many ways and you don't see that often. It's a sight to see."