The Utah Jazz miss Rodney Hood.
That much was obvious Thursday night, as the Houston Rockets defeated the Jazz 112-101 at Vivint Smart Home Arena before a nationally televised TNT audience.
It was obvious Tuesday night when the Jazz coughed up a 17-point lead in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Hood has missed six consecutive games with a sore ankle that stubbornly won’t improve. Utah survived four of them, as Alec Burks got hot for a few games, and Donovan Mitchell played so well that Hood’s absence didn’t matter.
But those games were a mirage. The losses to the Thunder and Rockets revealed what the Jazz truly are without Hood: A team missing its leading scorer, even if he comes off the bench.
“We miss a lot with Rodney,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “The scoring is obvious. The ability to create a shot, and Rodney is really committed to defending. Any time you have a player of his caliber that is out, you have to absorb it.”
Snyder said what his team misses most is Hood’s ability to get the Jazz through dry offensive spells with the second unit. And that’s been on display this week. Against OKC, the game was lost at the beginning of the fourth quarter when the Jazz couldn’t find scoring with Mitchell on the bench. One of the reasons Houston is so good is because the Rockets have Chris Paul running their second unit. The Jazz had no such luxury, and it showed.
When Hood’s been able to play, he’s had maybe the best season of his career, averaging 17.7 points and shooting a career-high 40 percent from 3-point range. With the second unit, he’s been able to carry the bench offensively in large stretches.
Problem is, Hood hasn’t been able to stay on the floor. He missed a pair of games earlier in the season with a calf strain, and his latest malady has been slow in healing.
“He’s someone that we need, because we need playmakers,” Jazz forward Derrick Favors said. “He can do a lot of things. He can shoot, he can get to the basket. So we need to get him healthy.”
When health will come, Snyder wouldn’t say exactly. He did say he thinks Hood will be ready to play, sooner rather than later. Hood has been able to get on the floor and do some work with Jazz assistant Johnnie Bryant. He was able to do some pregame shooting on Thursday as well.
But the Jazz want him playing, especially since they are starting to play better overall.
“What I’ve been told is that he’ll be ready when he’s ready,” Snyder said. “Hopefully that is sooner rather than later, but we can’t put him in a situation where he isn’t effective.”