- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - To say Rodney Hood was eager to return to the court after a hamstring injury sidelined him for three games might be an understatement.

The third-year guard knocked down basket after basket from the opening tip and finished with 25 points as the Utah Jazz defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 109-89 on Wednesday night to break a tie between the teams atop the Northwest Division.

“These last few games have been so tough to watch,” Hood said. “My teammates have been out there just battling and playing and you can’t do nothing but watch. It was good to be back out there.”

Utah led from start to finish behind 58.3 percent shooting and showed why it’s one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, holding the Thunder to 36.6 percent from the field.

Gordon Hayward scored 17 for the Jazz, who have won nine of 11. Rudy Gobert added 12 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.

Russell Westbrook paced the Thunder with 27 points, six rebounds and five assists. He shot 7 for 25 from the floor.

“When he has an off shooting night, you don’t take credit for it with your defense,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “You just try to make sure you do as good of a job as you can, not giving up offensive rebounds when he drives and try not to give him layups. Sometimes that’s hard to do.

“The guys that were guarding him worked hard. And that’s really all you can ask.”

Enes Kanter scored 19 for Oklahoma City against his former team.

The Jazz took a 55-41 lead into halftime thanks to a 15-6 run in the second quarter. Hood sank a pair of 3-pointers to highlight the stretch.

The Thunder shot just 32.5 percent in the first half and had little offense outside of Westbrook’s 14 points on 3-for-11 shooting.

“I know Gobert is a great rim protector, but I thought we had some shots around the basket that we normally could have made,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought that bled into our struggles scoring.”

TIP-INS

Thunder: Victor Oladipo missed his second consecutive game with a right wrist sprain. Jerami Grant started in place of Oladipo for the second straight night. The Thunder had the same starting lineup for the first 24 games of the season.

Jazz: George Hill missed his sixth straight game with a sprained left big toe, but is no longer in a walking boot. … Utah is 15-2 when leading at halftime.

A LITTLE REST

The Jazz played their first game in four days after a stretch of eight games in 13 days. The injury-ravaged roster got Derrick Favors (knee) back after a 13-game absence, and Hood (hamstring) returned after missing three games. Snyder said the injuries didn’t allow the team to practice much, but the Jazz tried to be smart and efficient in the things they could do. They also tried to get some rest and get healthy.

“There’s always a fine line between, you want to rejuvenate and recharge, but then you also don’t want to lose timing and things like that,” Snyder said.

OVER IT

Westbrook failed to get a triple-double for the third consecutive game and is starting to get annoyed with all the talk about him averaging a triple-double for the entire season.

“Honestly, people with this triple-double thing, is kind of getting on my nerves,” he said. “People think if I don’t get it, it’s like a big thing. When I do get it, it’s a thing.

“If I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I don’t. It is what it is. I really don’t care, not for the hundredth time. I don’t care. All I care about is winning.”

UP NEXT

Thunder: Oklahoma City hosts Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.

Jazz: Utah hosts a Mavericks team Friday that has lost 11 of 12 games on the road.

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