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Rodney Hood finally gets chance in Finals, scores 15 for Cavaliers

NBA Finals Warriors Cavaliers Basketball

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, right, and forward Andre Iguodala defend Cleveland Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood (1) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Wednesday, June 6, 2018, in Cleveland. The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 110-102 to take a 3-0 lead in the series. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)


“Where has Rodney Hood been?”

It’s the question a lot of Cavaliers’ fans were asking after Game 3 — and one a lot of analysts were asking since Game 1.

A desperate Tyronn Lue let Hood out of the dog house Wednesday night and Hood took advantage of the situation, scoring 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He was the second playmaker shot creator the Cavaliers often have been looking for.

“I’m very happy for Rodney,” Lue said after another Cavaliers’ loss. “Played a good game. He was aggressive. Attacking the basket, and he gives you a guy who can shoot the basketball from three and also put the ball on the floor. I thought he did a good job attacking tonight. Gave us a lot of momentum throughout the course of the game.”

Hood had earned his seat on the bench — he had refused to enter the final minutes of a game against Boston, he had admitted he struggled to adjust to the scrutiny that comes with playing with LeBron James, and he and LeBron did not have much chemistry on the court (looking at the NBA’s Second Spectrum numbers, LeBron passed less to him than any other teammate).

Yet with Cleveland’s struggles to create shots and get enough points this series, a lot of analysts and Cavaliers fans had been calling for Hood to get some run since during Game 1. Lue tends to stick with his dogma and he was slow to come around on Hood in this series. He finally did.

“Just from watching the five-on-five games those guys play every day, and just seeing him get his work in and playing those games and being aggressive, getting his offensive scoring and stuff back, he’s been great in those games,” Lue said of Hood and why he finally got a real chance in Game 3. “Just thought we’d give him a shot, and he made the most of it, and just happy for him.”

Hood was not gloating about playing well and proving he deserved the chance.

“It would have been a lot more satisfying if we won,” Hood said. “We’re one game away from elimination. It feels good to play well, but at the same time we need to get the one game two days from now.”

Still, Hood impressed his teammates.

“I thought Rodney Hood was Rodney Hood tonight. That was Rodney Hood, man,” LeBron said. “He was just aggressive from the beginning when he got in the game, even though he missed his first three. He had a wide-open shot, but he just continued to push and push.

“His athleticism and his length and his touch around the rim, you know, it was more than just what he did for the team, I think for himself, that was just a huge moment for himself. That was good to see. That was great to see, actually.”

Hood was a microcosm of the Cavaliers in some ways in Game 3 — he got them some points and had a strong offensive night, but he also as part of the numerous defensive breakdowns that led to the Warriors getting 37 shots at the rim in the game, many of them dunks and uncontested layups.

“It’s tough because they really run the ball up the court and you always have to have your head on a swivel guarding the shooters,” Hood said of defending the Warriors. “And if you’re not being on the help side, make sure you communicate. It’s a tough thing to do.”

Hood is going to get his chance again in Game 4, the win-or-the-season-is-over game for the Cavaliers. With the way J.R. Smith is playing, Hood should get a lot of run in that one.

“The season is on the line. Leave it all out there on the court,” Hood said of the coming game Friday night. “Regardless of what happened, we come out and compete and get a win. The series isn’t over, and these guys [some Cavaliers teammates] have been in this position before. Us younger guys, new guys, we just have to follow their lead.”