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Utah Jazz guard nearly Rodney Hood nearly got the ball stripped from him with less than a minute left in the game, but he recovered, gathered the ball in the backcourt, and hit a pull-up 3-pointer with 50.3 seconds left to seal a win and send much of the home crowd scurrying for the exits.
On a night when a leg injury sidelined Jazz All-Star Gordon Hayward, Hood looked like his old self for the first time since coming back from an injury of his own. Hood, playing in his fourth game since missing two with a right knee soreness, scored 20 points and provided a much-needed perimeter scoring option in a 108-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans with Hayward unavailable due to a quadriceps contusion.
"I think it's mainly how my knee is feeling," Hood said. "When it's feeling good, I can come out and be aggressive, especially tonight with Gordon out and [Derrick Favors] still out. My teammates were looking for me to do that tonight. I just tried to get out to an aggressive start, not necessarily to making shots, but being aggressive."
Hood went 7 for 16 form the floor including 4 for 7 from behind the 3-point arc. His season has been full of peaks and valleys and lower body issues.
A third-year guard out of Duke, Hood missed three games in December with a right hamstring strain. In January, he got hit with the double whammy of a right knee hyperextension and a bone tension that kept him out five games. Early in February, he missed seven more games with an LCL spring and bone contusion on that right knee. This month, he's had two stints of two games apiece he's missed with soreness in that same right knee.
"It's hard to play and then not play, especially if you're a player that needs rhythm a shooter, a scorer," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "It takes you a while to kind of get yourself back in a groove. Rodney dealing with being out a couple weeks and then being out a couple weeks again, coming back and being on a minutes restriction, he's had to fight through a lot. We just need to keep him healthy and keep him out there, and I think he'll find his rhythm."
Hood's 20 points were his most since scoring 28 against Sacramento on March 5. He'd scored a total of 12 points in his previous two games, including a 4-for-13 shooting performance in a 13-point loss against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.
Monday night, Hood came out aggressive and scored seven of his 20 points in the first quarter. He carried the mentality over into the second quarter while playing largely with the second unit. Hood and Joe Johnson (14 points) were the catalyst for that group as the Jazz pushed their lead to as many as 18 points when Hood drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 9:48 remaining in the half. Hood scored 13 first-half points.
"It's been a rough time for him with his knee and his injury," Rudy Gobert said of Hood. "I know he's working hard. Tonight, we really needed him. He came in and gave us a lift. Hopefully, he'll be a 100 percent for the playoffs, but what he did tonight was great."