Sports / Utah Jazz / 
Cleveland Cavaliers center (55) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) tip off the game with Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) watching from below as the Utah Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 29, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Rudy Gobert shows why he 'should be the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year' in Jazz's 39-point win over Cavs

By Ryan Miller, KSL.com | Updated - Mar. 29, 2021 at 10:56 p.m. | Posted - Mar. 29, 2021 at 9:24 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gobert read the scouting report on the Cavaliers. He knew that Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, Cleveland's young explosive backcourt, could get going.

Sexton has had five 30-point nights, including a 42-point explosion, this season; Garland, meanwhile, has gone over 20 points 11 times.

"They have a lot of guards that can score a lot of points if they get comfortable," Gobert said.

But on Monday, the pair was anything but comfortable in Utah's 114-75 win over the Cavs at Vivint Arena. Because while Gobert knew the scouting report on his opponent, the young Cavs didn't seem to quite know it on Gobert.

In some ways, you can't blame Garland for wanting to try a drive on Gobert. The second-year guard has shown this season he's a building block for Cavs and averages over 16 points for the rebuilding squad. So when Gobert was isolated against him out on the perimeter in the second quarter, he took it as another chance to show his skill — or maybe he just didn't quite know Gobert's.

Garland is confident, no doubt; he might need to be a little smarter next time.

On a play, he drove to his left and got to the rim. The problem? Gobert got there, too. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year emphatically blocked the layup attempt, which led to a transition 3-pointer by Joe Ingles.

That's the Jazz (35-11) at their very best. And after a midseason swoon, the Jazz are once again playing at their best. Monday's win was their sixth straight victory; and with it they've tied the franchise record by winning their 20th straight game at home. Utah is once again rolling.

Donovan Mitchell had 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, Mike Conley had 18 points (16 of which came in the third quarter) and five assists, and Gobert added 18 points and 17 rebounds in the rout. The Jazz hit 19 3s and shot 46% from behind the arc.

But Monday was less about the points they scored and more about the ones they didn't allow. They really can thank one man for that. Spoiler: It was Gobert.

In the first five minutes of the second quarter, the Jazz went on a 15-2 run. In Gobert's minutes on the floor that run pushed the Jazz lead to 22 points. During that stretch, he had the big block on Garland and then forced Lamar Stevens into a fadeaway midrange jumper that was a good foot short of the rim.

"The gravity that Rudy has as a defender with keeping guys out of the paint is one I've never seen," said Georges Niang, who had 15 points in the win. "The way we play defense, if your guy does beat you, continue to stay on his hip and good luck. I mean Rudy's 7-2 and he's a skilled shot blocker. He's not just big, but he's skilled and he has a great ability if he's not going to block the shot to just make guys miss."

The Cavs had an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 67.3 when Gobert was on the court. For reference, the league average is 112.0. Now, no one is going to mistake Cleveland as an elite offensive team — far from it. In fact, the Cavs are the worst in the league, but what Gobert was able to do to them may be considered criminal in some states (and probably is in Ohio).

Cleveland shot just 35% from the field in the loss. Sexton had 20 points and Garland had 18; no other Cavalier reached double figures. The Cavs' 75 points was the second lowest point total in the league this season.

"Tonight, I think, was probably one of our best games in terms of consistency defensively, I think you know every single minute on the court, everyone that came in was locked in defensively," Gobert said.

That was seen late in the third quarter. The Jazz were already up by 23 points when Gobert checked back in with 3:02 left in the period. The game, for the most part, was already decided. That didn't stop Gobert from once again swallowing up the Cavs. After Gobert checked back in, Cleveland didn't score again in the quarter as the Jazz went on a 15-0 run.

On one possession, Gobert even pushed Jordan Clarkson, who was just 3-of-14 as he continued to struggle to find his shot, up to be in a better guarding position. He wanted each and every stop that badly.

"There's a reason why he's a two-time Defensive Player of the Year," Niang said. "With everything that's being said, he should be the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. I'm just putting that out there. I don't think anybody affects the game more defensively than Rudy does and that's just a fact."

After Monday, you likely won't get any arguments from the Cavs.

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