There are two parts to every defensive possession: it’s not enough to just force a miss, you have to get the rebound, too.
The Jazz have been sensational at that last part this season, grabbing the second-highest percentage of defensive rebounds of any team in the NBA, behind only Milwaukee. And in large part, that’s been thanks to Rudy Gobert, who has made it a point of pride to end every defensive possession with a rebound.
That No. 2 ranking figured to be tested against Detroit on Monday night, though. The Pistons are the fifth-best offensive rebounding team in the league, nearly entirely due to the efforts of one Andre Drummond. The hulking, physical 6-foot-11 center leads the league in offensive rebounds (5.2 per contest) and second-chance points (5.3 per contest) this season, and he has a 34-pound advantage on Gobert.
But on Monday night, Gobert definitively won that battle. Drummond ended up with only three offensive rebounds, while Gobert got 22 defensive rebounds, part of a 25-rebound effort that tied his career high.
“Andre’s big, but Rudy’s a little bigger. He’s a little bit longer,” Kyle Korver said. “For us to do that tonight, we’re maybe lacking in some other areas, so we have to be great with where we’re good. Obviously, tonight Rudy was great on the boards.”
Gobert said that, coming into the game, he’d have to focus on his rebounding.
“I knew we had the — if not the best, one of the best — rebounders in the league to box out, and that made me probably a little bit more aware of that and a little bit more aggressive,” Gobert said.
Gobert finished just shy of a 20-20 performance, scoring 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and a 6-for-8 effort from the free-throw line. Jazz coach Quin Snyder noted Gobert’s eye-popping box score numbers, but wanted to point out that it’s not always that way.
“Usually it’s the other way around: Rudy’s contribution doesn’t always show up on the box score. Tonight, Rudy’s contribution showed up pretty highlighted,” Snyder said.
And unlike some centers who chase rebounds to raise their statistics, Snyder said he’s not doing that, Gobert’s still fulfilling his duties in help defense. “He’s not sticking to his man to defensive rebound, he’s still playing the right way,” Snyder said.
That wouldn’t be a first for Gobert — he’s used to making impacts that don’t stand out on the stat sheet. For example, he leads the league by a significant margin in screen assists, the number of screens he sets that lead to baskets for his teammates. Against Chicago, for example, he had 14 screen assists that led to 34 Jazz points.
“In all those situations, I think it shows Rudy’s selflessness,” Snyder said. “It’s a good thing.”