Gobert’s Big Numbers Carry Jazz Over Nuggets

Oct 27, 2021, 12:15 AM | Updated: 12:17 am
Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside gets in a shoving match with the Denver Nuggets JaMychal Green (P...
Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside gets in a shoving match with the Denver Nuggets JaMychal Green (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz ran away from a tired Denver Nuggets team in a 122-110 to stay unbeaten on the season.

The Nuggets were led in scoring by Nikola Jokic, but the reigning MVP failed to appear in the second half after leaving the game in the second quarter with a knee injury.

The Jazz were led in scoring by Rudy Gobert who scored 23 points on just eight field-goal attempts, most of which came after Jokic exited the game.

Gobert’s Monster Numbers

Gobert has had a terrific start statistically to the season while leading the Jazz to a perfect 3-0 season. While the star’s tremendous impact on games can sometimes be hard to see on a box score, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year has yet to have a quiet statistical night this season.

After Gobert’s 23 point, 16 rebound performance against Denver, the two-time All-Star is averaging 18.7 points and 19 rebounds to open the year. The center’s 16 rebounds were his lowest mark of the season after posting back-to-back 20 rebound games to open the season.

Despite the prolific start, Gobert said he isn’t chasing numbers on a stat sheet.

“I’ve really stayed away from the numbers this year,” Gobert said. “When you pay too much attention to the numbers you kind of limit yourself, and you also play to other people’s standards.”

Gobert had his hands full with Jokic to open the game after the tired Nuggets suffered a bad loss at home Monday to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The do-it-all Serbian had 24 points, six rebounds, and six assists in just 24 minutes of play, but after banging knees with Gobert, the Nuggets had little answer for the Jazz center down low.

To make matters worse, the Nuggets bench struggled mightily on the second night of a back-to-back, managing just 13 points on 3-14 shooting and only two second unit players connecting on field goals.

With Jokic out of the game, Gobert scored all 14 of his second half points in the fourth quarter as the Jazz comfortably ran away from the Nuggets.

Donovan Mitchell Finds Success Inside The Arc

Donovan Mitchell has yet to have a complete offensive game this season but flipped the script on his shooting from the Jazz first two games.

After shooting just 35 percent inside the arc to open the year but 37 beyond the three-point line, Mitchell connected on 8-11 attempts from two-point range but shot just 1-9 from three.

“I missed a lot of easy ones the past two games,” Mitchell admitted.  “They’re shots I work on continuously, day in and day out, I think now I’m just making them and putting more time and effort in.”

Though he’s struggled to shoot the ball early in the year, the guard is still leading the team in scoring. Mitchell is averaging 21.7 points per game to go along with a team-high +11.3 plus-minus to open the season.

The guard said he believes he’s been getting good looks this year, now it’s just a matter of getting shots to fall.

“It’s just a matter of makes and misses, and that’ll come. I think the biggest thing is just trying to find ways to impact the game in other ways.”

Low Ego Bogdanovic

Jazz coach Quin Snyder has grown notorious among Jazz fans for his unwillingness to shake up his rotation, even when the team is blowing out its opponent.

However, in a tight game against the Nuggets, the Jazz coach opted to finish the game with Joe Ingles replacing Bojan Bogdanovic down the stretch.

Bogdanovic had 15 points for the Jazz on the night but had struggled to defend the Nuggets Aaron Gordon throughout the first half before finishing the game on the bench.

“Bojan has finished almost every game that he’s played here and he’ll continue to do that,” Snyder said after the game. “Tonight it felt like Joe was making some plays that were impacting us and it had really very little to do with Bojan not doing something.”

Trusting that adjusting Bogdanovic’s role, even just for one night won’t throw off his rhythm, or ego is a nice luxury for Snyder considering the Croatian’s tremendous impact he’s had on the team through his first two year’s in Utah.

When Mike Conley struggled to find his footing with the Jazz during the 2019-20 season, Bogdanovic was ready to step in and assume a large scoring role alongside Mitchell.

After undergoing wrist surgery in 2020, the forward was slow to regain his rhythm during the 2020-21 season but excelled when Mitchell and Conley missed an extended stretch together with injuries.

Just three games into the season, Bogdanovic has once again shown a willingness to accept a smaller role when needed, and it helped the Jazz stay undefeated on the season.

Whiteside’s Toughness

Though it’s only been three games, reserve center Hassan Whiteside’s toughness has already made an impact for the Jazz.

In the team’s win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday, Whiteside was the first Jazz player to match the intensity of the home team in a hostile environment. That provided the Jazz with a much-needed spark as the team outscored the Kings by 18 with the backup center on the floor.

Against the Nuggets, Whiteside got under the skin of reserve center JaMychal Green resulting in both big men getting tossed from the game in the fourth quarter. Though his new coach didn’t celebrate the center’s ejection, he recognized Whiteside’s effort to help the team win.

“You can feel him compete,” Snyder said. “That’s something that I think he’s taking a lot of pride in. He goes in there he’s impacting the game in a real way and that’s what we’re seeing.”

The Jazz now head out of town for six of the next seven games, including a three-game road swing through Houston, Chicago, and Milwaukee.

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Gobert’s Big Numbers Carry Jazz Over Nuggets