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Rodney Hood leads Utah Jazz's chippy, emotionally charged blowout of OKC

SALT LAKE CITY — It was chippy, emotionally charged and entertaining. It included the much-anticipated return of Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood. It ended in a blowout for the home team.

And, yes, it gave Utah Jazz fans a chance to boo the heck out of hero-turned-heel Enes Kanter.

In other words, Wednesday was a pretty dang good night in Utah.

As a bonus, the Jazz took over sole possession of the Northwest Division lead after trouncing Oklahoma City 109-89 at Vivint Arena.

“It’s huge. OKC is playing well, even though they lost (Tuesday in Portland),” Jazz guard Rodney Hood said. “Russell Westbrook is playing at an MVP level. To get a big win like that means a lot to us.”

Though he hadn’t played in three games because of strained right hamstring, it was Hood who looked like the MVP candidate in this game.

Hood opened the game with a 3-pointer and that seemed to set the tone for him and the Jazz. The shooting guard finished with a team-high 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting.

“I felt good. I was a little winded at times, but for the most part I felt good out there,” Hood said. “I played in flow, just played within the flow of the game. I didn’t force too much.”

Westbrook led all scorers, but he didn’t add to his impressive triple-double tally unless you count 27 points, 18 missed shots and 13 free-throw attempts.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder liked how his well-rested team played Westbrook, but he also admitted Utah was fortunate to catch the MVP candidate on an off night.

“The guys that were guarding him worked hard. That’s all you can ask,” Snyder said. “It’s tough when you’re that dynamic like him on a back-to-back.”

The Jazz, who had three days off coming into this matchup, didn’t make it easy on Westbrook or the Thunder for that matter. Utah matched Oklahoma City’s physicality and played a stifling defensive brand of basketball, limiting the visitors to 36.6 percent shooting.

Meanwhile, the Hood-led Jazz shot the lights out (58.3 percent) and got nice outings from the returned shooting guard Gordon Hayward (17 points), as well as Shelvin Mack (15 points, five assists), Rudy Gobert (12 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks) and Joe Ingles (11 points on 4-of-5 shooting).

Utah jumped out to a 7-0 start and led by as many as 19 points in the first half.

The Thunder made it interesting by clawing back to within six points in the third quarter, but the Jazz didn’t relent en route to winning for the ninth time in 11 games.

Utah, which didn’t beat OKC last year in four tries, improved to 16-10 to take a one-game lead over the Thunder (15-11) in the division.

“That was a big win for us, especially with all of the injuries that we had, the adversity we’ve been through,” said Favors, who had four points and four rebounds in 13 minutes while playing for the first time in a month because of a bone contusion in his left knee. “That was a good win for us. Hopefully we keep it up and keep that spot.”

If they keep shooting like they did from 3-point range (13-for-23) and contain superstars like Westbrook (7-for-25), they probably will.

“Give Utah credit,” Thunder coach Billy Donavan said. “I thought they made a lot of timely three-point shots.”

Hood sank five from deep, while Ingles and Mack each had three. Mack’s buzzer-beating triple at the end of the second quarter gave the Jazz a 55-41 halftime lead.

Hood’s luck was even better than his accuracy in this one.

On a night when Kanter (19 points) was booed every time his name was announced and with each touch of the ball, Hood got into a brief altercation with the Turkish big man.

Kanter walked through a group of Jazz players after a bucket and nudged Hood, who responded by shoving the 6-foot-11 Utah mountain lover. Kanter then turned around and exchanged words with Hood.

Referees called a technical and fans briefly went berserk when it was announced that No. 11 was the recipient. Instead of Kanter ending up with his second T and being tossed, though, Dante Exum somehow ended up with the costly foul.

Hood smiled when asked what happened with Kanter.

“That was Dante. That wasn’t me,” Hood joked. “Nah, we just ran into each other. It got chippy. That’s what happens in a game. It wasn’t nothing personal or anything like that.”

Hood walked over and hugged Kanter on OKC’s side of the court after the game. Favors and Rudy Gobert also gave Kanter a quick hug, although Kanter kept walking as Gobert talked into his ear.

“Just checking each other’s temperature,” Hood said of the friendly postgame exchange. “It was just one incident. It wasn’t nothing malicious. We’re not trying to kill each other; nothing like that. That was the end of it.”

That might be true for the Hood-Kanter brouhaha. But judging how emotional the team and the crowd was for this one, that probably isn’t accurate overall.