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If the Jazz are to make a run in the postseason, they are going to need a healthy Rodney Hood in the lineup. Quin Snyder said as much Monday night after Utah held off New Orleans. The statistics offer further proof.
Hood, the Jazz's starting shooting guard, has played in 45 games this season. The Jazz are 31-14 when he's in uniform and 9-10 when he sits. Hood averages 14.2 points when the Jazz win with him in the lineup. He averages 12.9 in losses. When he's aggressive and looking for his shot, the Jazz offense as a whole is more dynamic.
With important road games against the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder looming this week, Hood's value to the Jazz is clear: They are simply a better team when he's on the floor.
"We've missed him and we need him," Snyder said. "He's a weapon. Obviously the soreness in his knee is something that he's fought for a little while. And we're conscious of that because we want to continue to have him. We need him healthy."
With that in mind, the Jazz are taking steps in an effort to keep Hood fresh. On the tail end of a back-to-back against the Pelicans, Snyder elevated Joe Ingles to the starting lineup and placed Hood on a minute restriction. The goal is for Hood to be 100 percent by the playoffs, when his ability to score in isolation settings could prove invaluable.
Individually, Hood's had mixed feelings about his season. He's thankful on many levels, because he initially thought the scary knee injury against the Orlando Magic ended his season.
"I thought that was it for me," Hood said.
Further testing revealed only a bone bruise in his right knee. But Hood has fought that bone bruise for much of the past two months. He has experienced soreness, and when he has played he hasn't always felt like himself. There have been times he's been limited to what he can do. So that part has been frustrating for him.
"It's the nagging injuries that I've had to deal with," Hood said. "I can stay healthy. I know that. The best part is trying to get completely healthy for the end of the season and for the postseason. The times I've been out there and actually been myself, I've felt good this year. So I just have to build on that."
Why is Hood so important to Utah's offense? He offers all-star forward Gordon Hayward protection as a second scorer and creative force. When Hood is out of the lineup, teams can key on Hayward. And when Hood is out of the lineup, the Jazz don't have a primary scorer on the floor to lead the second unit when Hayward is taking a rest.
This was apparent in Sunday's win over the Sacramento Kings. With Sacramento swarming Hayward at every turn, doubling him and keeping multiple defenders in his general vicinity, Hood was able to carry Utah's offense in key junctures.
He scored 28 points, with 19 coming in the second half. Hayward and Rudy Gobert were able to finish off a startling comeback for the Jazz. But the rally wouldn't have happened without Hood getting hot at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The playoffs are different than the regular season. The game isn't as wide open, and teams have more time to effectively scout and prepare for each other. That puts isolation scoring at a premium. Hood is adept at breaking his man down and creating good shots in dire situations a talent he shares with teammate Joe Johnson.
"Rodney's huge for us," Utah forward Joe Ingles said. "He takes a lot of pressure off Gordon and George Hill. All three of those guys are playmakers. All three of them can shoot the ball and all three can play in pick and roll. We need him to be super aggressive because we have to take pressure off Gordon. The more aggressive he is offensively, the better it is for us."
Rodney Hood update
Hood originally hurt his knee January 14 vs. the Orlando Magic. He missed five games, returned and hurt the same knee against the Milwaukee Bucks, missing another seven games
In two games against the Houston Rockets, Hood averages 22 points. He's shooting 53 percent in those games
The Jazz are 31-14 with Hood in the lineup this season, which highlights his importance
Jazz at Rockets
Wednesday, 6 p.m. MST
At the Toyota Center, Houston
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM; 97.5 FM
Records • Utah 40-24; Houston 44-20
Last Meeting • Utah 120-101 (November 29th, 2016)
About the Jazz • They have been without key reserve Joe Johnson for the past three games. In his place, Boris Diaw and Trey Lyles have received extra minutes. … Since an embarrassing home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Jazz have won three consecutive games. … Wednesday represents the first of seven straight current playoff opponents for the Jazz. … Rudy Gobert has four career games with at least 15 points and 20 rebounds. He has two this season. … Gordon Hayward played in his 500th career game Monday night against New Orleans. … Gobert has 61 games with at least one blocked shot, which leads the NBA
About the Rockets • Eric Gordon on Saturday night passed Mirza Teletovic for the most 3-pointers made for a bench player in league history. … Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni is going for his 500th career victory against the Jazz. … Utah is four games behind Houston for the third spot in the Western Conference. … The Jazz and the Rockets are tied at 1-1 in their season-series. Both have won on their home floor