Rudy Gobert gave a monstrous performance Saturday night, intimidating Brooklyn players into altering shot attempts, cutting down the lane for putback dunks and alley-oops, and seemingly grabbing every loose rebound in sight.
And then, once the game was over, he sat down at his chair in the Jazz locker room and vomited uncontrollably onto the carpet.
Despite being ill all day, the big man may well have made the Nets queasy with his performance, racking up 23 points, 17 rebounds, and three blocks, as the Jazz cruised to a 114-98 victory.
“I just tried to give everything I had,” he said afterward. “It was a big game for the team. I haven’t missed a game yet, so I wanted to [play], unless I was really, really bad and couldn’t get up.”
The win was Utah’s third in a row, and bolstered the team’s record to 40-29 on the season.
Gobert and fellow big Derrick Favors were “enforcers” inside all night, according to Jae Crowder, as the Nets shot just 6 for 23 in the first quarter, wound up making only 34.7 percent for the game, and totaled only 38 points inside.
“We locked down the paint. [Gobert and Favors] did a heck of a job, I thought,” coach Quin Snyder said. “There was clarity when guys drove, where our bigs weren’t caught in between trying to play two [men at once]. They were able to have clarity and contest shots.”
And that, Donovan Mitchell agreed, wound up setting the tone for the entire game.
“You start to get teams flustered a little bit … just because we were pursuing and pursuing, and we just kept pushing. That’s what you want — you want to be able to just kind of aggravate teams,” he said. “It’s so easy when you have big fella down there doing what he does, and when you have Fav, who’s playing out of this world. When you have that anchor in the back, it allows the guards to do what we do and be aggressive.”
Still, it wasn’t that way quite the entire game.
For the first 7 1/2 minutes, it looked like the Jazz had no answers for the Nets’ swarming defense, which came in with the best rating in the league since the All-Star break. Utah started off shooting just 1 for 7 — with two of the misses coming via Favors dunk attempts being stuffed by Brooklyn big man Jarrett Allen.
The next 7 1/2 minutes more than made up for it, though.
Trailing 21-13, Mitchell made a 3, Gobert forced Joe Harris into missing a layup, and Crowder drove in for a dunk. Mitchell threw an alley-oop to Gobert, the Frenchman altered a Spencer Dinwiddie layup attempt, and then the big man found an open Kyle Korver for a trey.
The first quarter ended with Utah having scored 15 straight points. The run extended to 20-0 in the second before Rodions Kurucs wriggled free for a layup.
Still, the Jazz notched seven straight after that, and the 27-2 run effectively bust things wide open, giving Utah a 40-23 advantage that Brooklyn would never recover from.
“You definitely feel the momentum. You don’t want to get locked in on how many points it is, but you definitely feel the momentum swinging,” Crowder said. “… Getting stops and running [was the key] — we got out and ran. We limited those guys to one shot and were able to get out and run.”
The Nets eventually gathered themselves a bit in the third period, with back-to-back 3-pointers by Dinwiddie sandwiched around a Mitchell turnover prompting a Snyder timeout.
If there was any concern about the being content with their lead and taking it easy, though, Favors soon enough alleviated those fears.
In the last 1:18 of the third, Raul Neto missed a shot and Favors grabbed the offensive rebound; he then missed a shot, but by battling amid a group of Nets, he tipped it and kept it alive for another possession; Royce O’Neale then missed a trey, and Favors again battled to keep it alive; after Neto missed a 3, Favors was fouled going for the board on the loose ball, and eventually wound up sinking both free throws. After that, well, all he did was swat a Dinwiddie shot out of bounds, then sink a floating jumper right before the quarter’s end.
The Georgia Tech product wound up totaling 13 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocked shots.
“It was just effort. I just wanted to be aggressive, really,” Favors said. “I knew they were trying to box me out the whole time, and I just kept finding openings in the lane, and just kept trying to keep the ball alive. And it worked out.”
Mitchell added 24 points, six rebounds, and four assists. He also dazzled the home crowd midway through the third quarter by scrambling to retrieve the ball after it had been knocked away from Favors, and then, with only seconds left on the shot clock, unleashed an absolutely filthy behind-the-back-and-between-the-legs sequence to free himself for a leaning lay-in.
Still, in the end, Korver noted the important thing was that, even when Brooklyn started making some noise, nothing fazed the Jazz.
“This is one of the challenges of the NBA — whether up 20 or down 20, you need to keep playing the right way,” he said.