Utah Jazz All-Star Rudy Gobert was a -24 in today’s game with zero blocks.
The team with the best record in the NBA is officially out of the playoffs, and while this is something that has happened before, it rarely occurs when the team is up 2-0 in the series against a team missing their best player. However, that is exactly what happened Friday night at Staples as the Los Angeles Clippers won their fourth straight game of the series to eliminate the Utah Jazz and advance to their first conference finals in 50 years. One more thing, they closed out the series with back-to-back wins without their superstar Kawhi Leonard who before his knee injury was the team’s leading scorer, best perimeter defender, and stabilizing presence on the floor.
Leonard’s absence was evident early as the Clippers struggled to get stops on the defensive end. But, even if their offense was flowing and guys like Terrence Mann were stepping up, Utah built a 20-point lead on the back of some hot shooting from Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson, making it seem like it was time to get ready for a deciding game back in Salt Lake City.
The Jazz started the second half sloppy, allowing the Clippers to flip the script. Going small ball exclusively in an attempt to close the gap through hot shooting, the home team looked to attack Defensive Player of The Year Rudy Gobert on the perimeter, turning the Jazz strength into a glaring weakness. In what was a furious comeback by the Clippers, Rudy Gobert posted a -24, the lowest of all players in today’s game, as he failed to close out on shooters beyond the arc, which resulted in the Clippers catching fire. That was also the second straight game Rudy was unable to record a block, even as the Clippers attacked him in the paint late in the 4th.
“I think they were the tougher team, the more connected team.”Rudy Gobert, Postgame Interview
It’s easy to blame Rudy given his +/- in last night’s game, three-pointers were consistently drained in front of him, and Utah was reluctant to even throw him a lob late in the game. Rudy was a liability out there, but who kept him there in the first place? Who failed to adjust, and if the adjustment of going small was not available, who could not make sure it was?
That fault lies on the head coach and the general manager, where you must have a roster deep enough to play multiple styles and a coach that will prepare the team to be effective in different situations. Yes, Rudy could have been better, but he was being asked to do a job he isn’t paid to do, and the Jazz had no backup plan.
They say styles make fights, but the best fighters of all time can win in whichever way possible. The same applies in basketball because, as they say, the ball is round, and you need to be prepared for whichever way it bounces. As you go deeper into the playoffs, you don’t need just great shooters and great defenders; you need great basketball players. Perhaps this series will remind us of why we love the game, as it is not just about offense and defense, not just X’s and O’s or scores and scores and stops, it’s basketball.
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