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Rodney Hood leads Utah Jazz to strong finish, 100-89 win over San Antonio Spurs

SALT LAKE CITY — For the first 24 minutes of the Utah Jazz’s game against the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night at Vivint Arena, it appeared the night would be about the struggling Jazz grabbing a convincing win against one of the NBA’s elite teams.

After all, Utah’s offense was clicking and San Antonio’s wasn’t as the Jazz took a 50-38 lead into halftime.

But then the Spurs charged back, cutting their deficit to just two points at the end of the third quarter, and Utah came in great danger of losing its fourth straight game and eighth in the last nine contests following an impressive six-game win streak.

Ultimately, though, the night became about the Jazz’s success in closing out the veteran Spurs in their first game back at Vivint Arena in two weeks. Clinging to an 82-81 advantage with seven minutes remaining, Utah went on a 9-0 run over the ensuing 1:38 to retake a double-digit lead, and wound up winning, 100-89.

After Derrick Favors got the run started with a pair of free throws, Rodney Hood scored seven straight to give the Jazz the edge. Having started his second straight game thanks to the toe injury Donovan Mitchell is suffering from, Hood wound up posting a game-high 29 points on 12-of-24 shooting.

In all, 11 of Hood’s points came in the decisive fourth quarter.

“As he’s grown as a player every year, it’s kind of a natural progression,” Utah head coach Quin Snyder said of Hood before the game. “He’s gained confidence. I think he more and more is understanding that if he passes up shots and is not aggressive, that by and large we may not get as good of a shot during the course of a possession. He’s embraced that from the beginning of the year.”

In a game that saw both teams shorthanded because of various maladies (Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum and Raul Neto were out for the Jazz, while San Antonio was absent Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Pau Gasol and Derrick White), it was the injury-prone Hood whose star shone the brightest.

After missing seven games spanning the end of November and the beginning of December, the Duke product has finished in double figures in each of Utah’s last six games.

“That’s the player that he’s become,” Snyder said. “It’s not surprising, but it’s good to see. It’s good to see him continuing to grow and get better and become an even better scorer.”

Beside Hood, Favors had a solid game, finishing with 14 points and nine rebounds. Ricky Rubio had 11 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, and Alec Burks and Joe Johnson also finished in double figures.

"Our team I think has come to play," Snyder said after the game. "That's one of the things that they do. No matter who's out there, our guys have competed. It's good to see us respond in a couple situations."

Six San Antonio players finished in double figures, although none scored more than 12 (Bryn Forbes). Four players had 11 and Kawhi Leonard had 10 in 20 minutes as he continues his gradual return from injury.

The Jazz (15-18) will continue their brutal December schedule on Saturday night at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a game that will wrap up the regular-season series between the two squads.