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SALT LAKE CITY — So much winning. So much defense.
During the Utah Jazz’s current nine-game win streak — or 21 of the last 23 games, if you prefer — defense has been the key.
And the key to that defense has been center Rudy Gobert.
The Jazz’s defensive rating in the last 23 games is 94.5, and they currently rank second in the league in overall defensive rating at 101.8. Utah (40-30) produces 5.0 blocks and 8.7 steals per game and holds opponents to just 10.7 second-chance points as the team climbed to fifth in the Western Conference this weekend.
It all starts in the middle, with the “Stifle Tower.”
“Not a lot of people are talking about us, and it might be a good thing,” Gobert said after the Jazz’s 103-97 win over Sacramento. “We’re fifth in the West right now, and we’re going to keep winning games.
“I don’t mind when they talk about us. But it doesn’t matter at the end of the day.”
Gobert is not only blocking shots, but altering them and allowing his teammates to lock down the 3-point line. Scoring 14 points per game, Gobert is a 61 percent shooter who averages 10.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 2.3 blocks per game.
The stats speak for themselves. But if they don’t, let Gobert say a few words.
“I don’t like to make my own case,” the Frenchman said. “But there’s nobody that impacts the game defensively like I do in the whole world.
“I watch a lot of games, and I don’t see anyone. Draymond had a great game last year, and it was close. But this year, it’s not close.”
It’s not fake news; Gobert should be the NBA’s defensive player of the year.
He already is, claims Jazz coach Quinn Synder. Facts don’t care about feelings, and neither does Snyder.
“I think it’s an empirical fact, frankly,” Snyder said. “Empirical from the standpoint that if you look at every number, he’s been dominant. Not just good, but dominant. I’m not pining for him. I will, but right now I’m stating what is happening for our team.
“What Rudy is doing is special right now.”