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Monson: The Jazz need Rodney Hood to produce to advance past Clippers

First Published      Last Updated Apr 20 2017 10:10 pm

If we're going to go ahead and assume the Jazz have a chance to win their first-round series with the Clippers — Rudy Gobert's not walking through that door anytime soon — then, let's also go ahead and say it real, the way it is here.

The Jazz need help. They need something extraordinary. They need resolve and they need accuracy.

The only way they can find victory again is if they moderately hold the line at the defensive end and explode at the offensive. And the best way for them to get that kind of righteous pop is for some shooter, any shooter, to fire up the burners.

The Jazz are looking at you, Rodney Hood.

Gordon Hayward can't do it alone. Neither can Joe Ingles. Not even Joe Johnson, who boosted the Jazz so admirably in Game 1, straight into the grimace of the Gobert injury, can do that kind of heavy lifting in any consistent manner.

If all of those guys collectively pull an upward move, and Hood comes alive, that gives the Jazz their chance, even if it is a fat one.

Thing is, Hood knows this. He's been battling a bad wheel for most of the season that has for whatever reason, never healed. He's missed 23 games and played in numerous others well south of 100 percent. He said Thursday that the joint won't heal until he rests it after the playoffs, that he's in significant pain, that he does everything he can to keep the hurting and the distraction it causes him to a minimum.

But … he believes he can be a difference-maker.

"This is an opportunity for me," he said. "I'm really looking forward to the next few games. My teammates want me to shoot. I believe I can get those shots and make them. Knocking down shots gives us our best chance to win."

He paused.

"The Clippers are a great team. We have to score to beat these guys. Even with our good defense, we have to make shots. That's the biggest thing in Game 2 that we didn't do. That gives us our best chance."

He paused again.

"I'm very confident."

Hood's lifted his team before during the regular season, hitting clutch game-winners and blowing up for huge nights. He's one of the few guys on the roster who's got that eruptive quality in him, even though he averaged a modest 12.7 points per game this season, down from last year's 14.5.

In the first two games of this series, Hood's bumped and skidded, averaging only nine points on 35 percent shooting. Nowhere near good enough.

He knows that, too. Everybody else does, too.

"Shooting is always an equalizer," Quin Snyder said, when asked about Hood, among others. "The reality is, when you shoot well, you have a better opportunity to win. There has to be a mental toughness when you're not shooting well. Hopefully, that gate opens up, we shoot it, and are able to take advantage of that. We have weapons on the wing. They just have to be confident, be aggressive, not fear anything."

Not even fearing not having their big man on the floor.

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