I’m a guy that they look forward to take control when I’m in the game and just be real aggressive whether it’s shooting the ball, making plays for others and things like that. —Rodney Hood
ORLANDO — All it takes is for the first couple of shots to fall.
When that happens, Rodney Hood’s confidence increases, and, usually, good things happen for the Utah Jazz.
During the Jazz’s 40-point win in Orlando Saturday, Utah’s new sixth man got off to a steady pace with 10 first half points, then caught fire in the second half — posting 21 of his game-high 31 points in the third and fourth quarters.
He entered the game for Donovan Mitchell at 6:12 in the third, and he then dropped a quick 15 points.
“It felt good. I got an easy one, a layup, and my teammates was just finding me,” Hood said. “I was able to get a couple to go down. I was just real aggressive, I got to the basket a couple times, and then I just kept flowing from there.”
Hood credited his teammates for the performance. Guys were setting screens and going out of their way to find him during that stretch and Jazz coach Quin Snyder drew up a couple of misdirection plays to free up the former Duke star.
“It was a special night for him shooting the ball,” Snyder said.
The sixth man role is still fresh to Hood, but he’s as smooth as Denzel Washington while on duty.
Snyder decided to bring Hood off the bench for rookie guard Donovan Mitchell after the Nov. 7 loss to Philadelphia, and he’s bringing a whole new aggressive approach to the job.
After Hood’s 31-point performance, he became just the first player with multiple 30-plus point games off the bench in the same season since Thurl Bailey in 1988-89. He also put up 30 points on the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
In nine games as a starter, Hood was shooting 40 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 16.1 points on a 26.4 usage rate.
In Hood’s six games as a reserve, his field goal percentage has jumped to 45.1; he hits 47.1 percent from 3 and averages 20.2 points with a 30.2 usage percentage.
“His role really hasn’t changed,” Snyder said. “It’s a testament to him, but it also shows it’s what we felt like our team needs and what he’s able to provide with that second group, his focus. I think he can be even more aggressive, and that’s what I think you’ve seen and just be tough-minded to score the ball.”
For Hood, coming off the bench gives him an extra level of comfort. He’s still being aggressive, but kicks it up another notch. The second unit knows to feed him when his shots are flowing and feels at ease.
Prior to the season, many fans expected Hood to take over as the go-to guy in Gordon Hayward’s absence, but this role fits him well.
“It’s just taking control of that second unit, especially on offense,” Hood said. “I’m a guy that they look forward to take control when I’m in the game and just be real aggressive whether it’s shooting the ball, making plays for others and things like that.”
Utah (7-10) is headed to Philadelphia Monday for the last stop of a four-game road stretch. Saturday’s 125-85 win in Orlando marked the Jazz’s first road victory of the season.
Whether he’s starting full time or coming off the bench, Hood is enjoying this offensive stretch.
“I just like playing like I’m play to be honest,” Hood said on whether he likes starting or coming off the bench. “Just playing within the flow and just having fun right now.”