Michael Brandy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A one-game break may have solved Raja Bell's shooting woes — and helped heal his injured groin at the same time.
Bell scored a season-high 15 points in the Jazz's 98-88 win over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night. He more than doubled his scoring average for the season, and made a season-high six field goals.
Bell was back in the starting lineup after sitting out against Oklahoma City on Monday with a sore groin.
"I felt good," Bell said. "My groin felt good. I tweaked it a little on my first layup, but after that it was great. Offensively, it just was one of those nights where I got opportunities and I was a little bit more committed to being aggressive."
Bell shot 6-for-14 from the field, and missed three 3-point attempts.
"It was good and bad," Bell said of his shooting performance. "I felt good about it. I would have liked to make a 3 or two. I'm still searching for a 3-ball. We'll take baby steps."
No one is more frustrated with Bell's struggles from 3-point range than he is. He entered the season as a 41 percent 3-point shooter, but is making only 25 percent of his 3-point attempts so far this season.
"I'm the toughest critic I could ever have in a million years," Bell said. "It's really tough when I go home and I know I shoot a certain percentage for a career and I haven't made many. Sometimes that's counterproductive for me so I got to step away from it and not think about it."
Bell wasn't happy with his 3-point shooting, but the rest of his game was solid against the Nets.
He provided the Jazz with a defensive spark in addition to having his most productive scoring night of the season.
"It was good," coach Jerry Sloan said of Bell's night. "He made shots. I thought he did a pretty good job of guarding the guys he was guarding."
The Jazz had a hard time putting the Nets away on Wednesday night, and Bell made the shot to make them finally go away. He hit a 15-foot jumper with two minutes left to give Utah a 93-86 lead.
"I think Raja is a great player," said Andrei Kirilenko. "Having him get back to our team is very exciting. Everyone knows he is one of the best sharpshooters in the NBA. He's kind of been struggling with his shot in the beginning, but he's going to find it. We don't worry about it."
Bell isn't worried that he'll find his 3-point stroke either.
"It's coming," he said. "I'm convinced. I've worked too hard and I'll still be in the gym working until I find it. It's like riding a bike. There's guys that are 50 years old that can go out there and knock down 30 3s. I think I just need to be comfortable with where I am on the floor and what kind of shots I'm going to get and just get my confidence back."
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