SALT LAKE CITY — It looked like it was going to be the Donovan Mitchell game.
Then Rudy Gobert happened.
Before the World Cup even began, Gobert had a warning for Mitchell if the two so happened to meet near the rim: “Pass the ball or shoot a really high floater,” he told The New York Times.
Not one of the options: A scooping reverse layup.
Now Mitchell knows why.
With the United States trailing by four in the closing minute, Gobert got switched onto Mitchell on the perimeter. Mitchell drove left and around Gobert, got to the rim and tried a reverse layup.
The ball had barely left Mitchell’s hand before Gobert swatted it away from behind.
Donovan, meet The Stifle Tower — the man that ended USA’s dreams of a world championship.
Gobert had 21 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks to lead France to a shocking 89-79 win in the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday.
But don’t expect him to be too harsh on Mitchell when the Jazz reconvene later this month for training camp.
“I don’t think that's the way I am,” Gobert said when asked about bragging rights. “I like to talk a little trash, but you know this kind of competition — I just lost to Australia a few days ago and it really hurt. I love Joe (Ingles), but I wanted to slap him. Those experiences will just make us better. This experience will make Donovan better. I have a goal for the national team, but we have a goal in Utah also and I’m excited for both.”
Rudy Gobert was the best player in that game.— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) September 11, 2019
He had 21 and 16 boards
France was +26 in his 34 minutes on the court
Oh, and he did this to his Jazz teammate in a huge moment
Congrats France 🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/7EKR58ca3B
After upsetting the United States, France is now just two wins away from that goal.
In the closing minutes, Gobert had two blocks — the one on Mitchell and one on Kemba Walker — and an emphatic two-handed slam as part of an 11-0 run by France that eliminated a five-point American lead.
Gobert was 6-for-12 from the field and was 9-for-10 from the free-throw line as he exploited the USA’s lack of size in the paint. Gobert was able to remain effective after struggling a bit to start the second half when the USA went small and even using Marcus Smart to guard him.
Gobert was a game-high plus-26 in 34 minutes. The plus/minus stat doesn’t always ring true, but that was an accurate representation of the kind of impact Gobert had against the United States. He was considered the best player in the game before the tip and he showed why.
And he made what looked to be a legendary performance from his Jazz teammate nothing more than a footnote in the tournament.
In the third quarter, the Americans needed a spark badly. France was up by 10, Walker, the USA's leading scorer, was struggling and the French were on the verge of pulling away.
Mitchell provided that spark.
Mitchell scored 14 of his game-high 29 points in the third quarter to not only erase France’s lead but give the United States a three-point advantage heading into the final frame.
He made acrobatic layups, rattled home 3-pointers and had a rim-rocking one-handed dunk. It was Mitchell at his scoring best.
“I could care less about the 29," Mitchell said. "The only thing that sticks out is what I did wrong. ... Whether it’s 29 or 0, we lost.”
Through three quarters, he was 12-for-20. He missed his only three shot attempts in the fourth quarter.
Did the Americans go away from Mitchell?
“No, they didn’t,” Mitchell said.
France will play Argentina on Friday in the semifinals on Friday. The USA will play Serbia on Thursday in the classification bracket on Thursday.
Australia 82, Czech Republic 70
Joe Ingles beat Donovan Mitchell's USA in a pre-World Cup exhibition and he beat Rudy Gobert's French team during the second round of group play.
He'll now get a shot at beating another former Jazz teammate.
Joe Ingles had six points, five rebounds and four assists in Australia's 82-70 win over the Czech Republic to advance to the semifinals where the Boomers will play a Spain team led by former Jazz guard Ricky Rubio.
Ingles was 3-for-7 from the field (0-for-4 from the 3-point line) and played a team-high 33 minutes in a game that the Boomers led by as many as 17 points.
Australia's semifinal matchup with Spain will be on Friday.