by Daniel Olsen
Those that do not think Rudy Gobert deserves another Defensive Player of the Year Award are not watching the games. The most impactful player on the Jazz was just that: impactful. With a plus/minus of +44, Gobert let the Jazz to a convincing 112-89 win over the Houston Rockets.
The Jazz dominated the Rockets right from the start. Consider the scoring plays of note in the opening stretch:
• Mike Conley off-balance shot
• Gobert lay-in
• Gobert dunk
• Ingles three
• Conley step-back three
• Gobert lay-in
At this point it is a 14-5 Jazz advantage and already an uphill climb for the Houston Rockets. The Jazz need to start every game like this. When the Jazz start slow, it seems to be a long night unless they find one of their scoring explosions. The Rockets would eventually call a timeout with the score at 19-10. They would re-group and hang within striking distance with the score being 34-27 with Utah ahead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second, the Jazz decided it was time to put the kids to bed. There is no way this rebuilding Rockets team could keep pace with the Jazz over four quarters. The Jazz maintained their high scoring with 27 points and stifled the Rockets by only allowing 16 points on the other end. Near the end of the second frame, Gobert welcomed Christian Wood to the block party. The huge swat sent the ball out of bounds on his lay-up attempt.
The third quarter was more of the same. Right out of the gate, the Jazz capitalized off a turnover with beautiful ball movement on the fast break. Ingles found Bogdanovic who cut towards the rim to draw the defense on him. He then whipped it to Gobert under the rim for an easy dunk.
When the defense collapsed on Gobert a minute player, he took what they gave him and kicked it back to Conley at the top of the key who immediately whipped to Bogdanovic for the open corner three. The ball never sticks in the Jazz offense, and Conley made sure to keep playing hot potato with the basketball. It has certainly led to a winning culture that has blossomed this year.
The fourth quarter was how it has been in many Jazz games this year. The Jazz pulled the plug on the starters with a few minutes to go in the fourth quarter. While the team had their lowest output of any quarter in this game (21 points), it’s important to remember that this doesn’t matter in garbage minutes.
The best bench player of the game was definitely the lead candidate for Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson. He had 22 points off the bench. He sat most of the fourth quarter. Niang also chipped in 13 points. The rest of the bench was relatively quiet as they combined for 10 points. The best player on the back of the bench was Matt Thomas. He had four points in seven minutes with one bucket coming off a field goal and the other coming off free throws. Overall, a 45 point outing for the second unit was impressive in comparison to a solid 28-point performance from the young Rockets bench.
The Jazz (44-15) are now two games ahead of the Phoenix Suns to remain at the top of the Western Conference standings. They will get their next test in a pair of games against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The first game in that series will be tomorrow at 7 PM Mountain Time in Vivint Arena. They will then fly to Minnesota for a rematch on Monday. They will end April on a three game road trip.
• Ingles has had an impressive three-game stretch in Mitchell’s absence. NBA Fantasy owners would be salivating right now if he was on their team. He has scored at least 20 points in each of these last three games.
• Gobert and Conley have both recorded double-doubles in two straight games.
• Clarkson had more points off the bench (22) than anyone did in the whole game.
• Mitchell fans can sign this petition to rename The Spider roller coaster to The SPIDA.
• The Jazz are 5-1 on the season against Texas teams. Their lone loss to a team in the Lone Star State was to the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month.
• The Jazz recorded 61 rebounds as a team which is their highest total of the month.
• 17 three-pointers in the last three games have been scored by Ingles.
Photo by Troy Fields/NBAE via Getty Images