I think guys are finally getting used to playing with each other on the offensive end. —Utah Jazz big man Derrick Favors
NEW ORLEANS — Before the tipoff in New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center, Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood had to spot his team of supporters.
There were mom and dad, Ricky and Vicky, in the stands as well as some family and his best friend, Tevin Culpepper dressed in Hood’s No. 5 Jazz uniform.
“That’s everything for me,” said Hood, a native of Meridian, Mississippi. “I always try to find them.”
Even after going off for 30 points in the Jazz’s 133-109 victory Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans, Hood had a tough crowd to please.
They made the three-hour drive from Hood’s hometown just to watch.
“It’s normal for me,” said Culpepper, also Hood’s former teammate at Meridian High School.
Hood went 12 for 14 from the field, while shooting 4 for 4 from 3-point land during Utah’s sixth consecutive victory. He logged 27 minutes in his second game back after missing six prior to that with a lower leg contusion.
“The other night, I played 16 minutes and I knew it was going to go up a little bit game by game but I didn’t know I was going to play that much,” Hood said. “It was just feeling good and I told them I would let them know if my leg started to hurt.
“It gave me a little bit of problems but for the most part I was fine.”
The Jazz posted their highest point total since 2014 while scoring 120 or more points in four straight games for the third time in franchise history.
“I think guys are finally getting used to playing with each other on the offensive end,” said Derrick Favors, who posted 19 points and seven rebounds. “Knowing where guys are going to be, knowing which guys are going to take shots at whatever position they’re at and we’re making shots.”
As great as the offense has been, Jazz center Rudy Gobert still credits these dominant performances to defense.
Since Gobert’s return from his second knee injury on Jan. 19, Utah leads the league with a 10.9 net rating, while shooting 50.5 percent from the field with a 7-2 record over that stretch — per StatMuse.
Every Jazz starter ended with a positive rating against New Orleans.
Ricky Rubio continued his strong play with 20 points and 11 dimes, Joe Ingles hit 18 points and rookie wing Royce O’Neale added 13 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.
“Well, it’s a process. You start training camp and you work,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “There’s always slippage throughout the year.
“I think what it is, we’ve gotten healthy,” he added. “It’s been important to them. They’ve been able to concentrate and demand those things of each other.”
Gobert also added 19 points and 10 boards while holding Pelicans' big men Nikola Mirotic and Anthony Davis to a single point combined in the second half on 0-for-10 shooting.
New Orleans got outscored 63-45 in the second half while hitting just 44.7 percent of their field goals.
Jrue Holiday led the Pelicans with a team-high 28 points and five rebounds as Davis finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Mirotic scored five points.
“Defense, defense,” Gobert said. “Everybody talks about the offense, but our offense really feeds off our defense and while we’re playing good defense we’re about to get good stuff offensively.”
Six straight victories also matched the Jazz’s longest win streak of the season. Utah went on a hot streak from Nov. 22-Dec. 4 to hit that same benchmark earlier in the year.
Utah (25-28) will go for lucky No. 7 on the road in Memphis on Friday. Hood’s parents will be there as well.
“We’re just focused on the goal,” Gobert said. “It’s fun to win but we’re still not there yet and I think we understand that. As long as we take it one game at a time and we understand why we’ve been good and we keep doing it and getting better, we’ll be fine.”
DEBUT: Louisiana Tech product Erik McCree returned to a familiar setting in a No. 21 Jazz jersey. The two-way player made his debut in the final 1:50. Ahead of the game, Louisiana Tech coach Eric Konkol was ecstatic for McCree.
“Very excited for Erik McCree! #WeAreLATech” he tweeted.
McCree said he hasn’t returned since he graduated in 2017.
“I love my school. I learned pretty much my whole work ethic,” McCree said. “I talk to my head coach every day so that was probably the biggest thing I learned was my work ethic.”