SALT LAKE CITY — Rodney Hood can take something Kobe Bryant did in Monday’s game as a major compliment.
Bryant requested to defend the red-hot shooting guard, who stole the spotlight from him while going off in the first half of the Utah Jazz’s 123-75 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The defensive switch shut down Hood, but the damage had been done by that point.
Hood, a second-year player from Duke, scored all of 30 of his points in the first half when he went off from outside, hitting a career-high eight of nine 3-point attempts and 11 of 13 field-goal attempts overall.
“It (the hoop) looked really big. Rudy (Gobert) got a couple of offensive rebounds,” Hood said. “I got a couple of clean looks and from there I just kept shooting. My teammates told me to keep shooting. It’s just a great team effort by us tonight.”
Hood went scoreless in the second half — as Bryant played tight defense on him after the first-half explosion — but the sizzling Jazz (51.7 percent shooting) were still able to increase their lead without his offensive help.
Utah improved to 37-37, reaching the .500 mark for the first time since they were 28-28 on Feb. 23.
“Obviously, I think as long as he’s playing the right way, he’s going to have some nights like this,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He’s going to have some nights where it doesn’t go in as much. The crucial thing is for him not to question what it is he’s doing unless he’s not getting good shots.”
Shelvin Mack and Trevor Booker each contributed 17 points, and Derrick Favors added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Jazz. Gobert amassed 19 rebounds, eight points and four assists in Utah’s largest win of the season.
The 48-point margin tied the franchise record for the Jazz’s biggest win and the Lakers’ biggest loss. It was also Bryant’s largest margin of defeat in his 20-year career.
“I didn’t say anything. I’d hope they would do a little soul searching and just think about what happened tonight and think about how we just didn’t come to play and how we didn’t compete,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “Sometimes it just comes down to having some pride, just going out there and trying your best. I don’t think we did that.”
Lou Williams scored 16 points and Jordan Clarkson chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds, but the Lakers shot only 30.6 percent from the field in a rough showing.
Bryant struggled with his shot, making just one of 11 for five points in his final game in Utah. The Jazz will be the Lakers’ final opponent in the last game of Bryant’s 20-year career on April 13 in Los Angeles.
Bryant took guarding Hood as a personal challenge.
“We had to do something,” he said. “I’d rather not have to chase him all over the place like that, but we had to do something.”
That point set Scott off.
“Kobe wanted to take on that challenge,” Scott said. “It’s a damn shame our oldest player has to take the challenge. It says a lot about him, obviously. It’s what he has done all his life, but nobody else wanted to step up and take that challenge.”
The Jazz had six players in double figures, also including Gordon Hayward (11 points, six assists) and Trey Lyles (11 points, eight rebounds).
But this night was all about Bryant and Hood.
Utah prepared a special video tribute for Bryant, giving a refreshingly honest tribute about his love-hate relationship with the Jazz and their fans.
Bryant gave Jazz owner Gail Miller and Jazz coach Quin Snyder hugs before tipoff. Though he received a cascade of cheers and boos during the game, the mixture of Jazz and Lakers fans gave him a rousing standing ovation when he exited the game for good early in the fourth quarter.
Bryant waved to the crowd multiple times.
“It’s really, really different to be cheered for here,” Bryant said. “They (the fans) are as brutal as you can get, so it feels good to get that response.”
The Jazz could do a video montage of Hood’s night, too. Though he didn’t even attempt a shot in the second half, the second-year guard finished with a career-high eight 3-pointers.
Gobert’s rebounds and the Jazz’s scoring were also season highs.
The Lakers, who lost at home to Washington on Sunday, fell to 15-59.
The Jazz played their first game back at Vivint Smart Home Arena after going 3-2 on a road trip. Seventh-place Utah holds a one-game lead over the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks in the battle for the final two Western Conference playoff positions.
NOTES: Kobe Bryant and Quin Snyder became good friends when the Jazz coach was a Lakers assistant in 2011-12. The two shared a brief on-court hug before tipoff Monday night. “I felt like I could really learn from him and I was very honest about that,” Snyder said. “I also felt like I knew a little bit about what was going on and I think he respected the fact that I was willing to learn and I understood a little about the game where maybe I could help him every now and then.” … The Jazz honored longtime Utah player Andrei Kirilenko Monday. Kirilenko, who played for the Jazz from 2001-11, is ranked among the franchise’s all-time leaders in eight different categories, including being No. 2 in blocks (1,380). “I consider myself as a Jazzman and I think all fans around the world they associate me with the Jazz,” Kirilenko said. “Obviously (I have) so much experience and memories in here.