Rudy Gobert's 20/20 lifts the Utah Jazz past the shorthanded Clippers
The stars were out in Los Angeles.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sat on the sideline at Staples Center, nursing injuries.
But that wouldn’t diminish the way the Utah Jazz’s stars shined.
In a 114-96 win over the shorthanded Clippers, Rudy Gobert led this Utah Jazz team to its 20th victory in 21 games and showcased, once again, why he deserves to be two-time NBA All-Star. The Stifle Tower recorded the fourth 20/20 game of his career — a number topped in franchise history only by Karl Malone.
“He’s huge every night,” Jazz wing Joe Ingles said of Gobert. “It looks different when he has 20 and 20. It makes it stand out even more and everyone notices. But we know what he does for us on a nightly basis.”
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 18, 2021
Even against a shorthanded Clippers squad, the Jazz found themselves trailing early in southern California, down 25-24 after one. But it was Gobert who set the tone for the Jazz and helped keep them afloat during some early offensive struggles.
“He was the aggressor,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said. “The stats show some things, but you look at the little things: sprinting down the floor, the tips that he had, finishing through contact, dunking the ball. He really set the tone.”
The Jazz built a five-point lead early in the second quarter, going up 30-25 on a Gobert dunk. But Lou Williams and the Clippers kept the pressure on and took a 51-46 lead into the locker room at the half.
“They were really aggressive in the first half,” Gobert said. “They were just playing harder than us. Regardless of who we play, we can’t really let that happen if we’re going to be the team we want to be.”
The Jazz looked much more like that team in the second half.
Gobert scored 12 of his 23 points in the third quarter, while helping hold L.A. to just 24 points in the period.
“I think it’s our mindset,” Gobert said of the change after halftime. “We were down but we kept going. We kept playing harder and harder. I think we got better every quarter.”
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year played no small role in that.
“It’s what he does,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s something we talked about, defending even when we’re not playing as well on the offensive end. In the second half, we started pushing the ball on some of the stops we got. We don’t take [Gobert] for granted because he just impacts the game.”
“I know my teammates need me to come out every night and be the anchor defensively,” Gobert added. “I try to come out every night with the same mindset and be aggressive every night.”
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 18, 2021
Mitchell’s game-high 24 points (along with seven rebounds and seven assists) and sixth man Jordan Clarkson’s 18 points off the bench helped the Jazz turn a halftime deficit into a 20-point lead in the fourth.
Gobert, meanwhile, would finish with 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 20 rebounds.
“There are nights when the box score doesn’t show the things he does,” Snyder said. “Tonight it did. He’s not trying to prove a point. He’s just playing and competing. That’s what we get from our whole group and he can lift you when he’s doing that.”
Said Ingles, “He’s had games where he doesn’t have double-digit points, but he has such an impact. He’s made all of us look good. He’s made me look like a good defender for years.”
If the NBA moves ahead with its tentative plans for an NBA All-Star game this season, the West already has its coach.
With his team off to the best start in franchise history, Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder is poised to be the Jazz’s first All-Star coach since Frank Layden in 1984.
“It’s a statement about our team and our players,” Snyder said Wednesday. “The way that they’ve played, winning games, that’s ultimately the reason you’re there.”
Snyder hasn’t bothered to celebrate the impending selection yet—not with games and goals still ahead.
“It’s particularly gratifying for me to see the way our guys have been winning and to feel their enthusiasm for me being able to do that and represent them, I’m honored to do that,” Snyder said. “Not to diminish anything with that honor, but we haven’t achieved some of the things that we want to try to achieve. That begins with the second half of the season. The thing that felt the best to me was to have those guys congratulate me on really something they did.”
The Jazz will stay put in Los Angeles and prepare for a rematch with the Clippers on Friday night. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.