Houston •Raja Bell spent his first 18 months in a Jazz uniform surrounded by criticism that his best shooting days were behind him.
Now that Bell is regularly connecting from downtown, he has no desire to discuss his improved stroke.
The 12-year veteran drilled all three of his 3-point attempts Sunday during Utah’s 101-85 loss to the Rockets. He has made 41.1 percent of his 3s this season after shooting 35.2 percent during 2011-12.
The fiery Bell is riding one of his best hot streaks in three seasons, hitting 17 of 30 beyond the arc since Feb. 6. But after watching the Jazz collapse on the road yet again Sunday, Bell declined to acknowledge his soft touch.
"I don’t really worry about that, man. I just play ball, man," said Bell, who’s hit at least one 3 in 18 consecutive games. The streak stretches back to Jan. 11, and is the longest active run in the NBA.
Bell said last week he’s not going to spend the remainder of the season worrying about touches. If the ball arrives and he’s open, he knows his career average of 40.6 percent from 3-point land will guide him home. If all he’s asked to do is provide air-tight defense, he’s ready for the challenge.
"My job [Sunday] wasn’t about shooting. My job was to make it as difficult for Kevin Martin as possible, and that’s what I was focused on doing," said Bell, who held the speedy Rockets guard to just two points in the first half on 0-of-3 shooting and 11 points overall.
A deep roster, young legs and strong play at home have guided the Jazz to a successful initial run during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. So has good health.
After Sunday’s game against the Rockets, Utah players had missed only 14 games due to injury, and no athlete had sat out more than three.
With many NBA teams dealing with the loss of star players, the Jazz have largely remained in the clear. That’s allowed Utah coach Tyrone Corbin to start Devin Harris, Bell, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson 23 times as his first unit. And the Jazz’s combination of good luck and better training has provided Corbin with a spotlight to shine on the team’s respected staff.
Jazz trainers Gary Briggs, Mark McKown and Brian Zettler entered the lockout-shortened season fully prepared, armed with compression pants and ice packs, while preaching rest and recuperation. Nearly halfway through a 66-game campaign, the extra care is paying off.
"Guys have done a tremendous job, from Briggsy to BZ and Mark McKown, our strength and conditioning guy," Corbin said. "Making sure that we take care. We stretch a lot; we do some weight stuff, as much as we can without overdoing that. Just making sure we stay on top of where guys are. We’ve been blessed with that so far."
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