HOUSTON — It may not have been the best birthday he’s ever had, but it’s certainly the second-best basketball-related birthday Gordon Hayward’s has enjoyed.
Hayward celebrated his 26th birthday Wednesday by helping lead a second-half Jazz comeback that resulted in an 89-87 victory over the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center.
The sixth-year Jazzman scored 22 points and came up with four steals, the biggest coming with 42 seconds left when he stepped in front of a Patrick Beverly pass intended for James Harden when the score was tied at 85.
At the other end, Hayward was fouled and made two free throws to put the Jazz up by two before the Rockets tied it again and the Jazz won it on a Derrick Favors dunk with 1.6 seconds left.
Hayward had been serenaded with a traditional “Happy Birthday” song by his teammates at Wednesday's shootaround and then was treated to a rap version by Jazz basketball operations assistant Steven Schwartz.
“It was definitely the best birthday rap song I’ve ever had,” Hayward said. “It gave all the guys a laugh.”
So what was Hayward's most memorable birthday? It has to be in 2008 when he turned 18.
The night before his birthday, Hayward scored the winning basket in the finals of the Indiana 4A championship for Brownsburg High School.
“When we got home, it was past midnight and the whole town was there because high school basketball is everything in Indiana,” he said. “They followed us back to the gym and everybody sang 'Happy Birthday', which was pretty cool.”
GOOD DEFENSE: The Jazz finished with 23 turnovers on the night, their second-highest total of the season behind the 24 they had against Indiana in the third game of the season and just the fifth time they’ve had more than 20.
Snyder was surprised to hear it was that many, although he said his team had about six in the opening minutes of the game.
“Sometimes the game plan isn’t always what you want, but it goes to show what good defense can do,” he said.
KIRILENKO TO BE HONORED: The Utah Jazz organization will recognize longtime former Jazzman Andrei Kirilenko when the team faces the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night at Vivint Arena. He will be honored with an on-court presentation during the second quarter of the game.
Kirilenko, who played for the Jazz for a decade (2001-2011), will also sign autographs before the game outside of the main Fanzz store on the concourse of Vivint Arena and will participate in a live social media Q&A with UtahJazz.com where he will answer fan-submitted questions. He will also appear on the Jazz Game Night Pregame Show and on the television broadcast as well as the in-game radio broadcast.
MORE STICKUM: Houston's Dwight Howard got in some trouble last week for using some “stickum” on his hands in a game against Atlanta. Howard claimed he had been spraying it on his hands for five years and didn’t understand what the big deal was.
The controversy died down over the past few days, but Howard got some grief from a fellow player after he didn’t catch a pass from James Harden in the closing seconds of a 111-107 loss to Oklahoma City.
“He needed that stickum,” tweeted Portland’s CJ McCollum after the game.
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz play at Oklahoma City Thursday night and at Minnesota Saturday before returning home to play the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night . . . Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, who spent 11 years working in Houston, was in Texas for a family affair, so he made it down to Houston for the game . . . Besides Hayward, Wednesday was also the birthday of former Houston Rockets star Moses Malone, who began his career with the Utah Stars in 1974. Malone passed away last September at the age of 60.