SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 1: Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz dunks the ball against the Atlanta Hawks on February 1, 2019 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

'I’m motivated every night'—Rudy Gobert shines for Jazz in win over the Hawks

by Aaron Falk

Rudy Gobert could feel the love.

Every time the Utah Jazz center stepped to the free throw line on Friday night, the 18,000-plus at Vivint Smart Home Arena chanted for him.

“All-Star. All-Star.”

A day after being left off the NBA’s All-Star team, Gobert experienced a full gamut of emotions, from a tearful interview at shootaround to the joy of being drenched by a teammate’s water bottle in celebration of a 128-112 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

“I’m motivated every night,” Gobert said afterward. “Obviously I’m going to carry that for sure. People know me. I know myself. I’m going to carry that for a while. But it is what it is. And I’m always going to come out to win and be there for my teammates.”

Friday’s victory, the team’s 30th of the year, was a win the Jazz would not have had without their star center.

The Jazz struggled for long stretches in the first half, with Gobert on the bench after picking up two early fouls. But with Gobert’s return in the second half, the game turned in Utah’s favor.

“You see his presence,” Mitchell said. “He got a couple of blocks. He’s yelling and screaming, we’re getting in transition. That’s who we are. Obviously, him having two fouls in the first quarter affected us.”

And Gobert’s teammates expect the disappointment of Thursday’s All-Star announcement to have a positive effect in the long run.

“I tell everybody you’re going to see a different dude,” Mitchell said. “Not that he wasn’t great before. But you’re going to see a different dude the rest of the season. Probably the rest of his career. That kind of thing you don’t forget and guys like him respond with the right type of energy.

“… There are moments when you want to show them why they’re wrong. He’s the king of that. He’s been doing it his whole career. This will be just another obstacle. He’s going to climb over it.”

Gobert started that climb in fine fashion. The center finished with a game-high 25 points to go along with 13 rebounds and two blocks. He was a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor. And he made 11 of his 15 free throw attempts, each time hearing the chant from the crowd.

“It means a lot,” Gobert said. “It shows they have my back. That’s what it’s about. And I know they have my back. They don’t even have to do that. But it’s fun. It makes it fun to be here and even more when the fans care about it as much as they do.”

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