We had the ball and were ahead at the end of the game but we didn’t make plays to close the game. I’m proud of the way we competed. If we keep doing that we’ll keep improving. —Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
MINNEAPOLIS — For awhile, it looked like a great way for Rodney Hood to celebrate his 25th birthday. He was making shots from all over the court, including three 3-pointers in a dizzying 51-second stretch in the third quarter, on his way to a 20-point night.
However, it didn’t end well for Hood, who went down with a leg injury midway through the fourth quarter as he was carried off the floor by a couple of teammates. It looked very serious at first, perhaps an Achilles tendon injury, but immediately after the game, Jazz officials confirmed it wasn’t that and called it a “left calf strain” which would be re-evaluated Saturday in Utah.
Hood wasn’t around to see a gallant comeback by the Jazz, who fought back from a 10-point deficit after he went out and actually took the lead, before faltering in the final minute in what turned out to be a 100-97 loss to Minnesota Friday night at the Target Center.
The Jazz even had the ball with the lead with under 30 seconds to play, but a turnover by Rudy Gobert and a clutch 3-pointer by the ageless Jamal Crawford proved to be the difference.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder is never one for moral victories, but he put a positive spin on the disappointing loss against a team that’s supposed to be one of the better teams in the Western Conference this year.
“Frankly to come in and play against a team that’s one of the top teams in the West and to be in the position we’re in . . . we had the ball and were ahead at the end of the game but we didn’t make plays to close the game,” he said. “I’m proud of the way we competed. If we keep doing that we’ll keep improving.”
Besides Hood, who shot 7 of 12 from the field and had four assists, the Jazz got good performances from all of their starters as Ricky Rubio had 19 points and 10 assists in his homecoming against his old team, Derrick Favors scored 16 points on 8-of-15 shooting, Joe Ingles scored 14 on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range and Gobert had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
However, the Jazz bench, which was so instrumental in Wednesday's opening-night win over Denver, could only manage 19 total points Friday night.
The Jazz allowed Minnesota’s two No. 1 draft picks, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns to score 21 and 20 points, respectively, but the guy who really crushed them was 37-year-old Jamal Crawford, who joined Minnesota this year after playing for the L.A. Clippers.
Crawford scored all 17 of his points in the fourth quarter and made what turned out to be the winning basket with 27 seconds left to put the Wolves up for good at 98-96.
“He hurt us, he can do that,” said Snyder. “I thought we did a good job throughout the course of the game, but he got loose in the corner on that out of bounds shot after we turned it over and made it. That’s what he does.”
The play Snyder described happened after Rubio had put the Jazz ahead with 55 seconds left and Teague missed a shot on the baseline. Gobert came up with the rebound but promptly threw it away. Then after a timeout, Crawford got free for his 3-pointer from the right corner.
Gobert took the blame for his miscue, saying, "I turned it over. I don’t know why. I tried to rush it. I threw it and it was a bad turnover.”
The Jazz had a chance to tie it, but Gobert’s shot from close range bounced out and Favors’ 12-footer on the baseline missed.
Of his missed shot, Gobert said, “I felt a few arms grabbing me and pulling me down, but I still have to finish that.”
The Jazz returned home early Saturday morning and will face Oklahoma City at Vivint Arena Saturday at 7 p.m. Then next week, it’s back on the road for games against the L.A. Clippers Tuesday and the Phoenix Suns Wednesday.