On Friday night, the Utah Jazz defeated the Charlotte Hornets 106-94 in front of a sellout crowd at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
On that same night, Jazz coach Quin Snyder tried to answer a few questions that will persist for remainder of the season.
The first one: How will the second unit replace Rodney Hood after he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers? Who can create a basket off the bench when the Jazz need it most?
Friday night produced mixed results. Utah’s second unit struggled mightily in the second quarter, allowing Charlotte to forge a lead. But the Jazz bench was huge in the third quarter, which went a long way towards Utah winning its eighth consecutive game.
“We’re going to miss Rodney, and we know that,” Utah shooting guard Alec Burks said. “He’s a great player, and some of the things he does we aren’t going to easily replace. But we still have great players, and we have guys who are going to have to step up.”
In a vacuum, Charlotte’s bench outscored its counterparts 40-26. And in the second quarter, Snyder went with four reserves playing around starter Derrick Favors. That group struggled creating shots, and struggled to get stops.
Snyder adjusted in the second half. He kept either Donovan Mitchell or Joe Ingles on the floor with the bench unit at all times, which gave the lineup a playmaker. He also staggered his substitutions.
The lineup responded. With the score tied at 77, the Jazz bench scored the last seven points of the third quarter, allowing Utah to take an 84-77 lead into the fourth quarter. It was enough of a cushion that the Jazz were never seriously threatened again.
“It was a huge run by that lineup,” Mitchell said. “The intensity they brought was huge. The way they came out and defended, that was the biggest thing. They played with energy and that was a big run headed into the fourth.”
With Hood in Cleveland, Burks was re-inserted into the rotation. Jonas Jerebko and Royce O’Neale both played big minutes, and Jerebko responded with 10 points and five rebounds. O’Neale had eight points, seven rebounds and a pair of assists.
When Jae Crowder becomes available to play, he will become a big part of Utah’s lineup instantly. But, even with Crowder’s inclusion, replacing Hood’s 16 points per game figures to be a group effort.
On Friday, the group made enough plays to help the starters finish out the win.