(The Sports Xchange) - Taking over games is quickly becoming Rodney Hood’s personal trademark.
Hood lights a fire under the Utah Jazz offense every time he shoots these days. That was certainly the case in a 94-85 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night. The second-year guard rattled off 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting -- which included four 3-pointers.
Hood provided a huge lift for Utah in the absence of leading scorer Gordon Hayward, who missed the game due to plantar fasciitis.
“My teammates were telling me to be aggressive,” Hood said. “I got going early, and stuff started to open up.”
Shelvin Mack added 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, while Derrick Favors chipped in 19 points and Trey Lyles added 12 points for the Jazz (32-35). Utah shot 44.4 percent (12-for-27) from the perimeter to help secure its third consecutive victory and keep pace with Dallas and Houston in the battle for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Mavericks and Rockets, both 34-33, are each two games ahead of the Jazz.
LeBron James scored 23 points and collected 12 rebounds, notching his 23rd double-double of the season to lead Cleveland. Kyrie Irving chipped in 15 points and Kevin Love added 12 point.
Cleveland (47-19) had won three straight and six of seven before falling to the Jazz. The Cavaliers were doomed by poor perimeter shooting, connecting on just 23.8 percent of their 3-pointers, 10 of 42.
“We had our chance,” James said. “We definitely settled for the outside shot too much tonight and didn’t get into the paint. They did a great job of capitalizing on our mistakes.”
Cleveland appeared primed to run away from the Jazz early in the first quarter, racing out to an 11-4 lead on an alley-oop dunk from James.
Utah quickly fought back. Mack drilled a 3-pointer and Rudy Gobert followed with a three-point play to spark a 13-2 run. Favors and Hood capped the run with another pair of back-to-back baskets to put the Jazz up 19-15.
Utah eventually built up a five-point lead in the quarter after Raul Neto drilled a 3-pointer to make it 26-21. The Cavs rallied early in the second quarter and briefly went ahead 35-34 when Irving drove for a layup. Hood countered with a pair of jumpers to help put the Jazz back up 40-35.
He was just getting warmed up. Hood tacked on a 3-pointer and fed Mack in the corner for another 3-pointer to give Utah a 48-42 lead with 29.9 seconds left before halftime. His third 3-pointer pushed the Jazz’s advantage to 53-44 early in the third quarter.
“I really think Rodney did what Rodney does,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I‘m not sure he was aware of it. He didn’t hunt shots. He was really aggressive when he had a window.”
Utah led 61-52 after Hood’s fourth 3-pointer when the Cavaliers finally mounted a comeback. Cleveland used a 14-3 run -- capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Channing Frye and James -- to jump back in front 66-64 late in the third quarter.
It didn’t last long. Lyles took over in the fourth quarter. He drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to put Utah ahead again. It sparked a 16-2 run that helped the Jazz pull. Joe Ingles capped the run with another 3-pointer, giving Utah an 86-73 lead with 4:41 left.
Lyles scored 10 points in the quarter before being ejected for committing a flagrant foul against Frye with 3:57 remaining. Frye also was tossed after being assessed his second technical.
“Trey Lyles was big -- hitting threes, getting to the basket,” Hood said. “He created some separation. We’re a really good defensive team, so we got some stops when we needed them. It was big for us.”
Making a fourth-quarter comeback proved impossible for Cleveland because it could not crack Utah’s defense. The Jazz forced the Cavs to the perimeter, and that doomed Cleveland on a night when shots didn’t fall.
It also thwarted the Cavaliers’ chance of going 4-0 on their Western road trip.
“It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, naturally,” Love said. “It’s bittersweet. We wanted to go 4-0, but three out of four on a road trip where we played two back-to-backs is not bad. We seek perfection. We always want to be better.”