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SALT LAKE CITY — Luka Doncic had already gotten the perfect of Mike Conley repeatedly and had left Royce O’Neale caught on screens for a lot of the evening.
So when Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd noticed the Jazz swap Rudy Gobert onto his celebrity late within the sport, he was all smiles.
Doncic, in spite of everything, is without doubt one of the most deadly offensive threats within the sport — a participant that Jazz coach Quin Snyder needed to cease himself from persevering with to call all of the issues that he can do on the court docket. And he was up in opposition to a man whose notion across the league says he cannot guard on the perimeter.
“That is to our benefit,” Kidd mentioned, following the sport.
However was it?
For seven minutes, Gobert switched onto Doncic and usually stopped him. The Mavericks, who as much as that time had been practically unstoppable, had been held to simply 10 factors in these minutes because the Jazz got here again to win the sport.
In a sport that was extra of a chess match than any regular-season sport deserves to be, Gobert performed the position of a do-it-all defensive menace that was nearly in every single place. Isolation in opposition to Doncic hardly ever ends properly for anyone; however for seven minutes, Gobert did not simply maintain his personal in opposition to a no-doubt top-5 offensive expertise, he gained the Jazz the sport.
Snyder mentioned the choice to make use of Gobert in opposition to Doncic late was read-based. He mentioned the crew’s common drop-big protection had made the crew too passive and had allowed Doncic to get to his spots, which in flip acquired the Mavericks too comfy.
So the Jazz switched decide and roll extra within the second half. Dallas countered by attempting to get Gobert matched up with Doncic.
“When he is switching, he is nearly as good as anyone standing in entrance of guards,” Snyder mentioned of Gobert.
Friday proved that.
Because the clock ticked below seven minutes, Gobert switched onto Doncic for the primary of many possessions down the stretch. Doncic tried to drive however ended up being caught below the basket. Unable to discover a shot, he was pressured to offer the ball away because the shot clock wound down, which led to a turnover.
That was the start of the sport throughout the sport that determined Friday’s sport.
“He is aware of I am attempting to remove his stepback,” Gobert mentioned. “After which he is driving and I do know he will attempt to use my physique after which cease, so I’ve acquired to remain balanced and soak up the contact. After which he will try to get me within the air, so I’ve acquired to remain down.”
Doncic wasn’t held scoreless — he had 8 factors within the ultimate minutes; and Gobert wasn’t good and allowed an open 3-pointer when he dropped again an excessive amount of. However for essentially the most half, Gobert managed the sport defensively when he was matched up with the Dallas celebrity. He stopped Doncic’s drives and even had an empathic block within the ultimate minutes.
“Rudy did a fairly good job on him, staying in entrance and making him take powerful photographs,” Bojan Bogdanovic mentioned.
“We simply trusted within the huge fella and we stayed house,” added Donovan Mitchell.
To Doncic, nonetheless, Gobert’s defensive efficiency wasn’t with out controversy.
“I just like the matchup. I acquired fouled, he did not name it,” Doncic mentioned. “I do know the ref, he would not like me.”
On two drives down the stretch, Doncic turned to the ref and overtly puzzled the place the whistle was.
“I am not a ref. It was a bodily sport,” Gobert mentioned. “Luka all the time pushes, so if they don’t seem to be going to name that, then they should not name anything.”
And as for the notion — Doncic and Kidd appear to agree with it — that he cannot guard on the perimeter, Gobert mentioned: “The notion has by no means matched the numbers.”
The numbers had been on full show Friday.