Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

Bojan Bogdanovic vs. Pascal Siakam - Key Matchup

by Aaron Falk

As he patrols the paint, Rudy Gobert sees the entire floor in front of him. And after a rough start to the NBA season’s second act, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is seeing his Utah Jazz squad get back to normal.

“Our focus has changed, our intensity as a team, our mindset,” Gobert said. “We’re really taking pride in starting the game the right way defensively. That’s who we are.”

The Jazz are suddenly riding a five-game win streak, and they’ve done it in large part by reclaiming their defensive identity.

The team had a 107.7 defensive rating before the All-Star break but had stumbled out of the gate after it. In the first four games after the break, Gobert and company saw their defensive rating skyrocket to 121.9. Over the last five games, however, that number has improved to 111.5.

“There are about five to 10 turnarounds during the course of the season,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said after his team closed out a perfect four-game road trip with a win in Detroit. “I think the important thing is that we were focused on the right things and we've come out the last few nights. Defensively, we were really, really good. There are some things you can do better during the game. But, if there's anything we talked about turning around, it's our intensity and our focus on the defensive end and that usually [helps]. Whether you win or lose, if you do those things, you're going to be successful more often than not.”

The Jazz will need that defensive focus and intensity tonight as they host Pascal Siakam and the Toronto Raptors. Siakam is averaging 23.6 points per game in his first fourth NBA season, his first as an All-Star.

“I think our physicality on the ball is key,” Gobert said. “Having me back there being able to help, but having [the perimeter defenders] putting pressure on the ball and making things hard and uncomfortable on the ballhandler is something that really makes us take another step defensively.

“And then for me, I have to communicate and be able to do what I’ve been doing the last few years, to protect the rim and to be able to close out when I’m guarding a shooting big. It’s really a team effort. It’s about all of us being able to do the little things.”

 

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