Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 114-98 win over the Brooklyn Nets from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Rudy Gobert’s flu game
Rudy Gobert was sick all day today, so much so that he didn’t know he would play, so much so that he had to throw up into a wastebasket in front of his locker afterwards. But as game time approached, the fluids the Jazz’s training staff gave him made him feel well enough to go out there anyway, allowing Gobert to stay the course on his goal to play all 82 games this season.
Not only did he play, he was the game’s best player. He was phenomenal, just absurdly good on the defensive end. The Jazz got out to kind of a slow start, and the Nets had a 21-13 lead at the 4:34 mark of the 1st quarter. And then Gobert just shut everything down.
Look at this. Spencer Dinwiddie, a talented scorer, is isolated in space against Gobert. But Gobert stays close to him to prevent the mid-range, moves his feet and swivels his hips, and makes Dinwiddie’s layup attempt look kind of dumb and silly. Then Gobert sprints 94 feet to the other end, faster than the Nets’ big guys, to put himself in position for the alley-oop.
This is after a 8-minute stint of play in a game where he’s so sick he had to vomit afterwards. I don’t know how that’s possible.
Or this play. This is a basket. A 2-on-1 with both players driving into the paint with no help whatsoever coming? D’Angelo Russell seeming makes the right play, but nope, Gobert just erases DeMarre Carroll’s layup. The basket becomes no basket.
Watch only Gobert on this play. He feints towards Joe Harris, then steps back to cover the alley-oop possibility, then still gets up enough to block Harris’ floater.
It’s insane. A more lax 4th made some of the numbers less pretty, but the Jazz played three quarters of the game where they allowed the Nets to shoot just 10-35 in the paint, or 28 percent. It’s impossible to win that way. Relatedly, the Nets lost.
(I still haven’t mentioned his offensive impact, where he scored 23 points, on 9-11 shooting, including seven dunks. He also had 17 rebounds. His offensive impact didn’t approach his defensive impact. He was that good.)
2. Derrick Favors, though, played just as well
And as good as Gobert was, Favors gave him a run for his money. In fact, for the 22 minutes Favors was on the floor, the Jazz had a 73 defensive rating. Just like Gobert, he also had three blocks.
To be sure, Favors is less scary than Gobert, but sometimes that works to his advantage. I don’t know that anyone is challenging Gobert on this kind of play, but that doesn’t make Favors’ block any less real:
The stats on Favors’ rim protection are pretty absurd this season, better than Gobert’s, actually. He has the best field goal percentage against on shots within 5 feet than anyone in the league defending 3 shots or more per game; he allows those easy close looks at only a rate of 48.7 percent, when on average goes go in 62.4 percent of the time. I think some of that difference is due to the bench units he plays against, but hey, he deserves a metric ton of credit.
Maybe it’s just because I am subconsciously comparing him to Gobert all the time, but the thing that impresses me most Favors isn’t so much his rim protection, it’s his crazy catch radius and ability to get his hands to balls he has no business getting.
There was one possession at the end of the third quarter that was pretty remarkable. The video is choppy thanks to all of the breaks in the play, but here’s the play-by-play: Raul Neto missed a 13-foot floater, but Favors got the offensive rebound around two guys. He goes up for a putback dunk, gets fouled so he misses it, but it’s not called. He then fights for that rebound, enough that the Nets end up tapping it out of bounds. 14 seconds later, Royce O’Neale misses a three, but luckily Favors is there to contest for that offensive rebound, again despite two Nets surrounding him. Again it goes out of bounds, again it’s Jazz ball. On the inbounds play, Neto takes a three, misses that, but Favors goes for the board again, and this time, an exasperated Nets team just fouls him to send him to the line for two free-throws.
Favors got credit for just one rebound during that sequence, but kept the Jazz in the possession enough to get three shots and, eventually, two free-throws.
He’s so good. It’s a real shame that he’s not at a different position than Gobert, who is the Jazz’s foundational superstar. And it’s a real shame there are so many players at center around the league, because the Jazz won’t even be able to turn his on-court value into another position easily. But he would be an upgrade for so, so many teams.
3. Jae Crowder’s 4-point plays
Here is the NBA leaderboard in 4-point plays this year (okay, 3-point makes where the player is fouled, regardless of whether or not the FT was made):
|3pt And 1s
Jae Crowder, is the worst 3-point shooter on that list. He’s only making 33 percent from deep, but defenses are still closing out on him with reckless abandon. What’s his secret?
“If I give you that, you’re going to type it, the other team is going to read it!,” he said.
To the scouts of opposing teams: hello.
He gave a better answer when we asked about it in January, though: “When I follow all the way through, I have a better chance of making it,” he said “Guys close out very hard sometimes.”
It’s true, Crowder does just jump forward naturally on his shot, meaning that he makes contact more frequently than other players. But, let’s be honest, there’s also some gamesmanship in going down when he feels the contact down low.