I’ve got to be aggressive and score. I’ve got to take shots even though I’m missing them, tonight they happened to go in. —Rodney Hood
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not often NBA teams face the same opponent four times in the first third of the season, before even getting to Christmas.
But the Utah Jazz will see the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday night for the fourth time this season and the second time in three nights when the two Northwest Division rivals tip off at Vivint Arena in a 6 p.m. game.
The Jazz defeated the Thunder by nine points in the first meeting back in October in the third game of the season. In early December the Jazz dominated the Thunder for three quarters before getting “Westbrooked” in the fourth quarter in a 32-14 blitz that left them with a six-point loss.
Then earlier this week on the final game of their six-game road trip, the Jazz were thoroughly beaten by OKC 107-79 in a game the Jazz were never in from the start.
In that game, the Jazz were finishing up a grueling six-game road trip, but perhaps this time OKC will be the tired team as it played a home game against Atlanta on Friday night.
The Jazz got some of their mojo back in Thursday night’s 100-89 victory over San Antonio despite not having dynamic rookie Donovan Mitchell in the lineup because of a sprained toe.
After losing seven of their previous eight games, the Jazz were happy to get a victory, particularly after being on the road for the previous six games.
“Our team has come to play,” said coach Quin Snyder after the game. “That’s one of the things that they do, no matter who is out there. Our guys have competed, so it is good to see us respond in a couple situations.”
Rodney Hood stepped up big with 29 points for the Jazz his best scoring output since getting 31 against Orlando in mid-November.
“I think tonight, he knew in the fourth (quarter) that he was going to have to step up and provide us with some offense,” said Snyder. “I thought his teammates did a good job of helping him, whether that be screening him or finding him. Rodney is capable of doing that. He’s an explosive offensive player and I think that he knew we needed that tonight and he responded.”
Hood said he took extra responsibility because Mitchell was out of the lineup.
“I’ve got to be aggressive and score,” Hood said. “I’ve got to take shots even though I’m missing them, tonight they happened to go in.”
Hood said the win over the Spurs, the No. 3 team in the Western Conference did a lot for his team’s confidence heading into Saturday night’s game with the Thunder.
“It does a lot for our confidence,” Hood said. “San Antonio is one of the best teams for the last twenty-something years. We just have to continue to fight. We play OKC again and we’re looking forward to that one.”
Thabo Sefolosha said the Jazz are happy to be able to play Oklahoma City so soon after the bad defeat Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a special game for us, the way we lost in OKC,” the former Thunder starter said. “Playing them in almost a back-to-back, it feels like we’ve got to be ready and bring the energy.”
After Saturday’s game the Jazz will get a couple of days off for Christmas and get right back at it on Tuesday with a game at Denver, followed by a game at Golden State on Wednesday. Then they’ll return home for a contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.