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Rodney Hood's first-ever game-winning shot saves day for Utah Jazz

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rodney Hood grabbed the rebound after Deron Williams’ go-ahead basket was off late Friday night, and suddenly it was like the Utah Jazz shooting guard had returned to the front yard of his childhood home in Meridian, Mississippi.

The ball was in his hands.

The clock was ticking down.

The game was on the line.

Three. Two. One.

Swish!

While Hood’s 3-pointer in front of the Dallas bench wasn’t quite a buzzer-beater, it was pretty darned close to the scenario that he’d played out many times as a kid — a scenario that most kids play out when they’re goofing off on a basketball court and dreaming heroic dreams and hitting game-winning shots.

“It was crazy,” Hood said moments after the Jazz escaped with a 103-100 win over a Dirk Nowitzki-less Dallas squad, thanks to his clutch jumper. “That was my first game-winner ever in my life.”

The Jazz don’t want a repeat of the situation that required a heroic shot like Hood’s basket with 0.8 seconds remaining, but they were more than happy it happened after blowing a 15-point second-half lead to a six-win Mavericks team.

“That was great,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said. “It was a great moment, a great shot and a great win. We really needed that one.”

After Dallas caught Utah off guard with a pestering defensive scheme that limited the Jazz to 13 fourth-quarter points in a near comeback win, the home team stunned the visitors in the waning seconds.

Williams attempted a potential winning bucket just feet in front of where his old coach, Jerry Sloan, used to coach him on a nightly basis when he played for Utah, but the former All-Star point guard’s shot clanked off of the rim to leave the score at 100-100 with 7.8 seconds remaining.

Hood hauled in the rebound with 6.9 seconds left, took a dribble the other way and hesitated. The Jazz had a timeout remaining, and he thought they were going to take it. Everybody did.

Instead, Jazz coach Quin Snyder waved his arms, ushering Hood to hightail it down court. Several of the Mavericks hesitated, anticipating a timeout, and Hood emerged out of the chaotic moment with the ball and an open shot from the left elbow behind the 3-point stripe.

“There was a lot of indecision and you could see open court. There was enough time and I just wanted him to go,” Snyder explained of his decision to forego taking the timeout.

“We were struggling in the half court mightily. Maybe the best thing that could have happened was him pushing it up the court and at least getting a clean look.”

It looked like Snyder might’ve tried to call a timeout, but he quickly motioned for Hood to keep on trucking.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen honestly. It was one of those things where sometimes Coach lets you run, sometimes it’s a timeout,” Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward said. “I don’t know if Rodney knew, to be honest. He paused half a second too, and Coach said just go. He made a hell of a play, a hell of a shot.”

Hood had an incredible basketball career as a youth in Mississippi, leading his high school to the Class 6A title as a senior. The 6-foot-8 athlete then excelled in college at Mississippi State and at Duke before moving on to the NBA.

But Friday marked new territory for the 24-year-old Jazz guard.

“When I dribbled the first time,” Hood said, “I saw Deron Williams just stop and I was able to get past him.”

As a few other Mavericks back pedaled, Hood pushed it into turbo mode to beat the dwindling game clock as an arena held its collective breath and an ESPN audience watched in anticipation of late-game theatrics.

“They probably had one or two people back and I just rose up and shot it,” Hood recalled. “That was the best shot I thought I could get with the clock going down.”

It was one of the best shots of his life.

“It was great,” Hood said, smiling. “Everybody dreams of that feeling — time going down, three-two-one, and you hit a shot, the crowd goes crazy. I did a lot of times in my front yard but never in a real game. It felt good to get this one.”

Even better than it felt in the front yard, no doubt.

Hood’s shot, which came after Harrison Barnes tied the score with a jumper 45 seconds earlier and Hayward missed a go-ahead shot with 23.9 remaining on a weird 13-point, seven-turnover night for him, helped the Jazz win their third straight game and 10th in 12 outings.

While it nearly ended in disaster for a team that’s trying to solidify its spot in the Western Conference standings, this game gave Utah (17-10) a boost of confidence heading into an extremely difficult two-game road trip at Memphis (Sunday) and Golden State (Tuesday).

“I’m really proud of our group for winning the game. We could have easily lost that game, and we didn’t,” Snyder said. “Hopefully, we got better tonight. We were in a situation we really haven’t been in. That’s progress in some ways, the experience.”

As for how the game ended for the Mavs, Williams and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle each blamed themselves for allowing the Jazz to have a last look.

“I’ve just got to do a better job controlling the game,” Williams said. “End of the game like that we’ve got to get the shot off with as little of time as possible, you know, if not the game clock going out. So that’s my fault as a point guard.”

Carlisle said he should’ve done the opposite of the Jazz and taken the timeout to set up a last play.

“That’s my fault. It’s not Deron’s fault,” said Carlisle, whose team turned the ball over before getting off one last desperation shot after Hood's dagger. “I’m disappointed because our guys fought so hard and everything. We had a chance to get the last shot and walk out of here, but it just didn’t happen.”

Hood and the Jazz won't complain.

It was the second straight big game for Hood, who scored 25 in Wednesday's big win over Oklahoma City after missing three games with a strained hamstring.

“I’m really happy for him. I’m happy for us as a squad,” Hayward said. “We let that one get too close at the end and (Hood) saved us, so it was a big–time shot.”

Three. Two. One. Swish.

Just like Hood had done so many times in his front yard in Mississippi — only this time it counted.

“It felt good. It felt good. You never know,” Hood said. “It’s kind of like you’re holding your breath a little bit. I was glad it went through and we were able to get this win.”

As Jazz fans cheered like crazy, Hood responded by doing a quick shimmy dance and then pounding his hand in his fist before celebrating with teammates during a timeout.

“I got that from Rudy,” Hood said of the shimmy. “I didn’t know what to do, so I just did that.”

Gobert laughed when a reporter showed him the video replay of Hood’s celebration dance. Turns out, The Stifle Tower demonstrated that shimmy for Hood while listening to French music before tipoff.

“I showed him the move before the game in the locker room,” Gobert said. “I didn’t know he was going to do it during the game.”

Hood hadn’t practiced that part in his front yard.

“I think he should have done it a bit longer,” Gobert joked. “That was too quick. A few more seconds, that’s perfect.”

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