SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gobert's answer wasn't a big surprise when he was asked about setting a new franchise record for rebounds in a single game. It, after all, came in a loss. So, no, he wasn't too excited about pulling down 28 boards against the Warriors on Sunday.
"I mean, I don't really care, to be honest," Gobert said. "There's gonna be a lot of nights like this."
Five rebounds, 10 rebounds, 20 rebounds — he doesn't truly care as long as the Jazz win. That's one of the things that has made Gobert so great. He does the little things and is fine with others getting the glory. But Sunday's game might have shown that against playoff defenses — the switching kinds that have slaughtered the Jazz in the past (hello, Golden State and Houston) — he might need to play more of a stat-getting role.
On the first possession of the game, Draymond Green switched on to Mike Conley, leaving the much-smaller Kelly Oubre on Gobert. Conley waited until Gobert had bulled Oubre deep into the paint and passed it inside to the big man. Gobert missed the bunny hook shot, but that played showed the easiest way to beat switching defenses: give it to Gobert down low.
The Jazz play a beautiful brand of basketball, but even this season as they've jumped out to an NBA-best record, switching teams have given them some trouble. Utah wants to get teams scrambling in rotation. That's when the extra passes and the automatic reads really pay dividends. If a team switches on each pick, though, it's hard to get it to scramble. Gobert against little guards near the basket is a pretty good counter to that.
And the Jazz went back to that. Early in the second quarter, James Wiseman switched onto Ingles and Oubre once again went with Gobert. Ingles dumped it down low and this time Gobert finished the play with a dunk.
Even when he doesn't get the ball initially, Gobert can be a threat when teams switch. Who's more likely to win a rebound battle: A 7-foot-1 center with a massive wingspan or any guard? Advantage: Gobert. On Sunday, Gobert pulled in eight offensive boards on his way to his record-breaking rebound total. He putback plenty of those rebounds, too.
"Being stronger as a whole, finishing, understanding where he needs to be, grabbing the board, demanding the board — that's what we see," Mitchell said. "That hunger for getting fouled and being strong with the ball."
Gobert was 8-for-10 from the field (with all attempts coming inside the restricted circle) and was 8-of-13 from the free throw line. If he does that, it makes it easier for the Jazz to beat the switch.
"He's keeping the ball high, dunking the ball — just taking that part of his game to another level and that's what we saw tonight," Mitchell said. "He almost had 30 rebounds — that's incredible to be honest. That's what I would say is the difference: he's being more aggressive, wants the contact, finishing through contact."