Over his five-year career, Rodney Hood has now started 225 of his 316 games played.
Monday night marked Hood’s second start for Portland as the Trail Blazers took advantage of the short-handed Timberwolves early, taking a 75-64 lead at the break.
Minnesota was without five key players.
The Trail Blazers were also short-handed with two starters out in Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) and CJ McCollum (left knee). Entering Monday night, with no McCollum in the lineup, Portland had won six straight before falling to the Pistons on Saturday.
With the winning streak snapped, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said it was time to make a change.
Coach Stotts started with Hood instead of Jake Layman at the two spot, telling reporters postgame, it was to “just, change it up. We had won five or six in a row with Jake… I just didn’t want to change things up while we were winning games, but it was something we were going to do eventually.”
Enes Kanter continued to start for Nurkic and the duo of Kanter and Hood was a key piece in Portland securing a victory as the Blazers held off the Timberwolves, 132-122.
“I thought we had a lot of good contributions and I liked our resiliency after giving up the lead and getting down six in the fourth quarter,” Stotts said.
The Blazers went on a 16-3 run to close out the first quarter, while Kanter and Hood scored 24 of the Blazers’ 38 first-quarter points. Portland held a 15-point lead after shooting 63% as a team in the first 12 minutes.
Hood told our Dwight Jaynes after the game that he thought moving to the starting lineup might’ve been just what he needed.
“I think tonight I started off with some bounce to my step, I changed my pregame routine a little bit, it felt a little bit better. But, obviously, I know once CJ comes back it’s going to be a different adjustment, but right now, I think it was good just for me mentally, just to get out there first,” Hood said.
“I think it was like a change of pace for me and for Jake just to be a little bit more comfortable. Start off getting a better feel for the game. The past couple of games I got off to a couple of slow starts. Getting off to a good start tonight, got a good rhythm… ended up working well, especially in that first half,” Hood added.
Stotts was also pleased with Hood’s quick start.
“He got off to a great start, obviously. He’s a scorer. In that lineup, tonight anyway, in the first half, he really gave that first group some scoring punch. He was able to handle a little bit. He’s a different type of player than Jake,” Stotts said.
Plus, having Layman come off the bench meant the connection between Evan Turner and Layman was back to where everyone had seen it earlier in the season. Turner dishing to a cutting Layman was just a snippet of Turner’s game, in which he notch his fourth triple-double of his career with 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Having so many role guys contribute it exactly what Coach Stotts is looking for right now.
“I really thought this game kind of exemplifies the way we need to play. Rodney and Enes had really good games, they were leading scorers and they didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. Evan played a great role as a facilitator; he did a little bit of everything with this triple-double. Zach [Collins’] defense in the fourth quarter made a difference. Seth [Curry] continues his roll, so we’ve got to depend on different guys, different nights,” Stott said.
Hood was 8-of-14 from the field including 3-of-4 from deep with 21 points heading into the fourth quarter and even though he did not see the floor in the final period, he still finished as the Blazers’ leading scorer.
The 26-year-old also pulled down four rebounds and had two steals on the night.
The Trail Blazers team captain Damian Lillard has been preaching “collective effort” over the past few games without McCollum and Nurkic. Lillard echoed what Coach Stotts said about this type of play is what this team needs to finish out the regular season strong.
“Rodney and Enes didn’t even play in the fourth, so that’s what I mean by that collective effort,” Lillard said. “You know, where everybody is going to have to give a little bit and we can win games that way.”
While most were talking about Hood’s offensive game on Monday, Lillard had a different approach to what he thinks it means to have Hood in the starting lineup.
“I think it makes us versatile to start games defensively -- with him, Moe, and Chief all being basically interchangeable on both ends of the floor,” Lillard said.
But, don’t think for a second that Lillard doesn’t recognize what Hoood can do at the other end.
“Another guy out there, kind of like CJ, you can throw the ball to and he can create off the bounce, make plays, he can score off the bounce. I think it’s good for us,” Lillard said of Hood.
So, will the experimenting with the starting lineup continue?
It doesn’t sound like it, unless the Blazers drop a game.
“We’ll see what we do going forward, but most likely he’ll start after a win, most likely he’ll start next game,” Stotts said with a smile.