Mitchell, Gobert Reconnect In Blowout Win Over Nuggets

Jan 16, 2022, 9:39 PM | Updated: Jan 17, 2022, 12:35 pm
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert challenges Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (Photo by Matthew Stockm...
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert challenges Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Rudy Gobert made his presence felt early and often in his return for the Utah Jazz as they snapped their four-game losing streak with a dominant 125-102 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Gobert recorded 18 points and 19 rebounds in 35 minutes on a perfect 7-7 shooting after missing the last five games for the Jazz while in the NBA’s COVID protocol.

Nikola Jokic recorded a 25 point, 15 rebound, 14 assist triple-double, but was outscored by Donovan Mitchell who had 31 points in the Jazz third victory over the Nuggets this season.

Gobert Dominates In Return

The Jazz opened the game slowly against Denver, finding themselves behind 8-0 in the opening minutes of the first quarter. Behind a few turnovers and poor defensive effort out of the game, the Jazz issues without Gobert seemed to be rearing their ugly head once again.

However, after a Quin Snyder timeout, the Jazz quickly found their footing didn’t look back for the rest of the night.

A 37-25 close to the quarter the Jazz a four-point lead after 12 minutes which ballooned to 10 points at the half, dropped to three after three quarters but quickly climbed to 25 in the fourth quarter during the runaway win.

A glance at the box score made it easy to see how dramatically Gobert impacted the game.

In addition to his monster double-double, Gobert had a game-high +36 plus-minus, his best night so far this season.

“I felt great, better than I usually do in Denver,” Gobert said about his return. “Just happy to be back, grateful to be able to be back and do what I love to do.”

It would be false to say Gobert outplayed Jokic whose continued brilliance on the floor has become must-see basketball every night, but how he fared against the Nuggets undersized second unit was the reason the Jazz won the game.

Gobert repeatedly denied easy looks from the smaller Nuggets bench and took advantage of his size in the post, establishing position under the rim and finishing through contact.

The All-Star center hasn’t always used his height and length to his advantage but did so against Denver who routinely wound up with guard Will Barton or forward Jeff Green matched up against Gobert.

After a tough four-game stretch in which the Jazz lost their identity, giving up an average of 121 points per game in the losses, Gobert quickly stabilized the shaky roster in his return, especially on the defensive end where the Nuggets managed just 102 points.

Jazz Back To Talking On And Off The Floor

Last week was one of the tougher weeks in recent Jazz memory with the team losing four straight games, followed up by untimely comments from Gobert about the team’s defensive effort compared to other contenders around the league

That led to a tense media session with Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson on Saturday prior to Sunday’s streak-snapping win.

What changed, at least according to the Jazz player who spoke after beating Denver was the team’s communication on and off the floor.

“To finally be back, have most of our guys back to have a practice, and to sit down and watch, we’re able to talk and we know what to say to each other,” Mitchell said of the team’s extended three-day break.

That led to sharper rotations on the floor defensively against a difficult matchup in Jokic.

“When we are passive defensively we don’t talk much,” Bojan Bogdanovic said. “But when we are aggressive then we even talk more.”

Gobert also mentioned the team’s communication on the court after holding Denver to just 14 fourth quarter points.

“The communication was great and I think that’s the team that we can be,” Gobert said. “That’s the mindset that we need to have every single night.”

Perhaps, more importantly, were the obvious signs of kinship shown off the floor even after Gobert ruffled the feathers of his Jazz teammates earlier in the weekend.

When Quin Snyder pulled his starters late in the fourth quarter, Mitchell made a point to go over to Gobert to give him a high five and congratulate him on the effort.

During Gobert’s walk-off interview, Mitchell again found Gobert and offered words of encouragement upon his return.

Based on talent alone, the Jazz are closer to being a championship contender than they have been at any point since Karl Malone and John Stockton left the team in 2003.

If they can’t find a way to jell off the floor, their championship window could close far quicker than it needs to. But, if the team’s two stars can co-exist off the floor as well as they do on it, the team should be title contenders for the next several seasons.

Jazz Prepare For Struggling Lakers

The Jazz now travel to face the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow night in a tough set of back-to-back games.

The Lakers will be hungry to earn a win over one of the top teams in the West after having lost three games in a row, including embarrassing losses to the Sacramento Kings, and a 37 point loss to the Nuggets on Saturday.

The loss to Denver was so bad that Lakers legend Magic Johnson called out the roster for their lack of effort.

The Lakers have been one of the league’s most up and down teams, snapping a five-game losing streak by winning five of six before beginning their most recent three-game losing streak.

Los Angeles has one of the NBA’s worst offenses, scoring just 108.4 points per 100 possession, good for 24th in the NBA. Their defense ranks 20th with a rating of 110.1.

With Anthony Davis out of the lineup, the Lakers have routinely switched up their starting lineup to match up with their opponents, starting center Dwight Howard in some games while putting LeBron James at the five in others.

For the Jazz, they’ll have to decide how to use guard Mike Conley who played against the Nuggets and has routinely rested in one half of back-to-back games this season.

The Jazz and Lakers will tip-off at 8:30 pm and can be heard on KSL NewsRadio and The Zone Sports Network. The game will be televised on NBATV, AT&T SportsNet, and FuboTV.

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