Jazz pull away in fourth to edge out Bucks

Rodney Hood pours in 23 points to help the Utah Jazz past the Milwaukee Bucks 84-81 on Friday.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz struggled offensively for the second straight game. Once again, it didn’t matter.

Rodney Hood scored 23 points and the Jazz pulled away late in an 84-81 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night despite an ugly offensive performance.

The Jazz won their season-high fifth consecutive game but shot just 39 per cent from the field.

"I think we were an offensive juggernaut," Jazz coach Quin Snyder joked. "Their length is pretty good, it bothered us some. Pressure on the ball, particularly in pick-and-roll. That forces guys to make plays and we didn’t make enough of them.

"Thought we had some open shots. I actually thought we got a little bit reluctant to shoot them as the game went on, which can't happen."

The Jazz began to pull away in the final 5 minutes on a reverse dunk by Rudy Gobert set up by a drive and dish from Raul Neto. Neto's corner 3 gave the Jazz a two-point lead and Gordon Hayward's 3 extended it to 78-73 with 3:16 remaining.

The five-point advantage was Utah's largest since the first quarter. Hayward put the game away with a layup that made it 82-75 with 1:32 left.

Hayward had 18 points and Derrick Favours had 11 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks.

Khris Middleton scored 18 points and Jerryd Bayless added 15 off the bench for the Bucks. Greg Monroe finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.

The Bucks had a 10-2 run midway through the second quarter and pushed their lead to nine on Middleton's floater. But the Jazz closed with a 7-2 stretch to go into halftime trailing 44-40.

"Everybody participated and put us in a position to tie or win the ballgame and we just came up short," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "We got what we wanted there late, we got the trap, we got the steal and now we have to execute on the other end. That is something as a whole for us to learn from."


Bucks: Kidd said O.J. Mayo had a good shootaround and hopes he can return Tuesday. Mayo has missed the last 11 games with a sore left hamstring. ... John Henson did not travel and missed his fifth consecutive game with a sore lower back. ... Miles Plumlee was called for a flagrant 2 and ejected late in the third quarter.

Jazz: A road game against the Washington Wizards that was postponed due to severe weather conditions on Jan. 23 has been rescheduled for Feb. 18. ... Friday was Utah's last home game before the All-Star break. Utah has a three-game trip before the break. ... Guard Erick Green signed a second 10-day contract Friday.

Defence BACK

The Jazz entered the game having allowed less than 100 points in the last six games, as teams have scored a league-low 86.8 points per game. The return of Gobert and Favours has clearly had an effect, but Snyder also credited the wings. "I challenged them pretty directly in November about where I thought our wings were," Snyder said. "The challenge, especially for Gordon and Rodney, is to not rest on the help side. If they're guarding the ball, you're engaged. But when you get on the help side, as much work they're doing in other aspects of the game, there's a tendency just to kind of relax. I think we've been doing a better job fighting that."


Kidd said he has to be patient coaching a young team as a former player known for his court vision and feel for the game. "We have to go through it together," Kidd said. "Because I can see something that they don't and they can see something that I don't. We have to work as a team. For us, we try to keep it simple. ... Help (them) understand what different situations come about and how to handle them. Watching video. Walking through things. Stopping and asking different questions so you can hear what they're thinking at that time."

Kidd was asked what his team sees that he doesn't?

"I was just joking," Kidd said with a laugh.


The Bucks have lost five in a row. "Fight, not let this affect us and figure out a way," Bayless said. "We are going through a tough stretch so we have to continue pushing through it."


The Bucks host the Celtics on Tuesday night.

The Jazz travel to face the Suns on Saturday night.