Jazz, Rudy Gobert look to stifle Spurs again


In a recent loss, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert bemoaned what he perceived to be somewhat of a lack of effort by his team.

That certainly was not the case in Monday’s wire-to-wire win over the San Antonio Spurs.

The Jazz (47-18) will host the Spurs (31-33) again Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, and they could certainly use a similar effort as they try to end the regular season with the No. 1 seed in the NBA.

“It’s really important to us to get off to a good start,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “If it means making plays off our defense and getting easy opportunities, that’s even better.”

En route to Monday’s 110-99 win, the Jazz led by double figures for most of the way thanks to a smothering defensive effort.

That excellent defense was encapsulated in one play during which three different Spurs began to attack the rim, then backed away after being confronted by two-time Defensive Player of the Year Gobert. They wanted nothing to do with The Stifle Tower, who spearheaded a defensive performance that kept San Antonio away from the rim much of the night.

“We tried to make them earn everything they got,” Gobert said.

Gobert finished with another statistical haul, scoring 24 points with 15 rebounds, three blocks and two steals to help the Jazz compensate for the absence of injured All-Star guards Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley.

The aggressive defense was the story of the night. Utah turned 13 San Antonio turnovers into 22 points, outrebounded the Spurs 50-37 and hounded the visitors from the perimeter, limiting them to 27.8 percent shooting from 3-point range.

“When we play that way,” Gobert said, “it’s really hard for the other team to play us because we have so many weapons.”

Jordan Clarkson (16 points, six rebounds, five assists), Joe Ingles (13 points, nine assists), Georges Niang (11 points) and Trent Forrest (nine points) helped boost the Jazz offense, which eventually went ahead by as many as 25 points.

That first half ended up dooming the Spurs, though.

“We got to figure out a way to come Wednesday ready to compete, because that second half we competed really well with them,” San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray said. “I think we competed way more than we did in the first half — starting with myself.”

The Spurs chipped away the Jazz lead, cutting the final margin down to 11 with a game-ending 7-0 run.

“Poor first half, really good second half,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’ve kind of had that personality for a lot of the year.”

–Field Level Media

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