CLEVELAND — Shooting guard Rodney Hood nearly became the forgotten man after a midseason trade brought him to Cleveland.
Hood, who averaged 16.8 points a game with the Utah Jazz during the first 39 games of the season, became a bit player with the Cavaliers as the regular season dwindled, and slipped further into obscurity during the postseason.
Hood didn’t leave the bench during the final two games against the Celtics, played just two seconds in Game 1 of the NBA Finals and was in just over four minutes of garbage time in Game 2.
But Cavs coach Tyronn Lue announced that the 25-year-old would be part of the rotation Wednesday night in Game 3, and Hood answered by providing a spark off the bench during Cleveland’s 110-102 loss to the Golden State Warriors, who are up 3-0 in the series.
Hood saved his best play to close out the halves in the second and fourth quarters. He made all three shots for six points and grabbed three defensive rebounds as the Cavs stretched a 29-28 first-quarter lead to 58-52 at the half. He made three of five shots for six points in the fourth quarter to help keep the Cavs in the game until the end.
Overall, Hood went 7-for-11 for 15 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots while playing nearly 26 minutes — the most he’s seen since the opening series against the Indiana Pacers.
“It would be a lot more satisfying if we won. I’d feel pretty good if we won,” Hood said. “But we’re one game away from elimination. It felt good to play well, but at the same time we need to get the win two days from now.”
Lue was asked during his postgame news conference if Hood might have had a slow first quarter due to lack of postseason playing time, which caused him to struggle to find a rhythm.
Hood played for nearly four minutes in the first quarter, missing his only shot — and his only 3-point attempt of the game — while grabbing one defensive rebound.
Lue didn’t have an answer, but Hood said he wasn’t expecting to score a lot of points during the first half.
“I was just focused on the defensive end,” he said. “Just come into the game and not even think about offense. I came in and picked up the ball, I was pressuring full court and that got me going, and offensively it just took off from there.”
Hood took advantage of several solid passes from LeBron James, who finished with 11 assists as part of a triple-double, and on several other plays used his ballhandling skills to drive to the basket or shake a defender for a midrange jumper.
“He was aggressive,” Lue said. “Attacking the basket, and he gives you a guy who can shoot the basketball from three and put the ball on the floor. I thought he did a good job attacking tonight.”
While there were several areas Cleveland will need to shore up if it wants to avoid elimination Friday night, Lue said Hood’s performance wasn’t one of them.
“He gave us a lot of momentum throughout the course of the game,” Lue said. “I’m very happy for Rodney. We just thought we’d give him a shot, and he made the most of it.”
Hood — and the rest of the Cavs — are hoping he’ll get a few more shots to show off his talents. He may need to do an even better job in Game 4 for that to happen.
“The season’s on the line and we have to leave it all out there on the court,” Hood said. “We have to come out and compete and try to get a win. The series isn’t over.”
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