Preview: Bucks at Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY -- Getting a scoring boost from the bench is leading the Utah Jazz to greater success on offense in recent games.
In two of its last three games, Utah's second unit has produced more than 50 points. The Jazz tallied 51 bench points against Chicago on Wednesday and 58 bench points against Orlando a week ago. In both games, it propelled Utah to lopsided wins.
Bench production will definitely be an x-factor when the Jazz host the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.
"We're very active, regardless of how the first team does," guard Rodney Hood said. "We come in and be very active and try to get deflections and try to pick up tempo a little bit. It's been good. We just got to keep going."
Moving Hood from the starting lineup to the bench has given that unit an offensive jolt. He has turned into a true sixth man for Utah (8-11) over the past few games.
Hood averaged 16.1 points on 34.4 percent shooting as a starter. Off the bench, he is averaging 19.1 points on 42.4 percent shooting - both on total field goal attempts and on 3-pointers. He has had two 30-point games as a sixth man, becoming the first Utah bench player to accomplish that feat since Thurl Bailey did it four times in the 1988-89 season.
For the season, Hood leads the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game.
Getting more consistent offense from the bench is making it easier for Utah to stay consistently tough on defense while Rudy Gobert remains sidelined with a right knee contusion.
"When you don't score, it puts even more pressure on your defense," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "The psychology of that, I think, as much as anything, it requires a lot of mental toughness to continue to compete on the defensive end when you're not scoring."
Milwaukee would love to get a similar boost in production from its own bench. The Bucks (9-8) have been thin at spots with injuries taking out key bench players.
Mirza Teletovic is expected to miss four weeks after undergoing surgery on Tuesday to repair cartilage in his left knee. Teletovic, who averages 7.1 points and is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range, has already missed seven straight games because of his knee injury. Matthew Dellavedova also continues to be sidelined with left knee tendinitis.
Jason Kidd is looking for answers to take some of the load off Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 6-foot-11 forward is averaging a career-high 37.8 minutes this season. Antetokounmpo has been highly effective, leading the Bucks in points (29.7), rebounds (10.3) and blocks (1.9).
Still, the wear and tear of so much time on the court is having a negative effect. A right knee injury sidelined him against the Suns and Antetokounmpo's status is day-to-day ahead of the game against Utah.
"It's something that I had talked about, that his minutes have been a little high early on and we've got to look at our bench," Kidd said.
Utah swept Milwaukee in both games between the teams last season. The Jazz have beaten the Bucks six straight times overall. Utah has won 14 straight home games in the series, with Milwaukee's last win in Salt Lake City coming on Oct. 30, 2001.