SALT LAKE CITY — Emmanuel Mudiay thinks the New Orleans Pelicans fans might have a little extra juice the next time the Utah Jazz are in the Big Easy.
Utah walked off the court with two fingers held high after Rudy Gobert blocked Brandon Ingram in the game’s final seconds to preserve a win (the NBA did say that Gobert should have been called for a foul; Gobert disagreed with that sentiment).
Mudiay admits the gesture might have come across as a sign of disrespect but, in reality, it was just the opposite.
“We were holding it as two-time, but I think they took it as 'peace out,'” Mudiay said, smiling. “They didn’t know what we were talking about. I’m pretty sure when we go back over there they are going to feel some type of way, but we were just encouraging our teammate.”
It was a show of appreciation for Gobert. The two fingers representing his two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards.
A couple of weeks ago in practice, Gobert had a message for Mudiay after an unsuccessful drive against the Utah center: “You might want to take a jump shot,” Mudiay remembers Gobert saying.
“That’s why you are the two-time defensive player of the year,” Mudiay said.
And thus, “two-time” was born.
He started saying it more. Then his teammates joined in, and soon it was a full-on movement.
“It’s an anthem now. You just have to hold up the two (fingers) every time he does something during the clutch time,” Mudiay said.
If the current winning streak is any indication, there will be plenty of two-finger salutes coming in the future. The Jazz have won six straight games — three of them have featured a clutch time stop by Gobert.
In the final 20 seconds against the Blazers on Dec. 26, Gobert deflected Carmelo Anthony’s potential game-tying 3-pointer and blocked a Damian Lillard reverse-layup attempt to clinch a win.
In Chicago last Thursday, Gobert stymied two Zach Lavine drives in the Bulls’ final two possessions to seal a 4-point victory.
And then there was Monday against the Pelicans, when Gobert had the walk-off block.
“It really made me feel good; it made me feel like they appreciate the work that we do, and that I do,” Gobert said of the celebration. “I just strive for that. We strive to be a great team and to be able to get the stops at the end of the game like that, and make winning plays. Everyone gets excited. We just want that to happen every night now.”
If it does, then next season his teammates will be raising up a third finger.
“I had to start to chant two-time,” Mudiay said. “Hopefully, threes on the way.”