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Keeping him happy: How Rudy Gobert got 8 dunks in win over Blazers

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Joe Ingles is one of the best shooters to ever play in the NBA; yet, at heart, he'll always be a playmaker first.

If you watch any Utah Jazz game, you'll most likely see an occasion where Ingles passes up an open shot that he most definitely should have taken. He likes to shoot, but he'd rather pass the ball.

That is why he was a bit confused about Portland's game plan on him Monday during Utah's 129-107 win at Vivint Arena.

The Blazers had center Jusuf Nurkic jump out on Ingles in the pick and roll, which led to some easy possessions for the Jazz (14-7).

"I don't know why you would blitz me because I'm a pass-first guy anyway," Ingles said. "Like, I couldn't think of anything better than to pass the ball, especially to Rudy (Gobert) to keep him happy."

It most definitely kept Gobert happy. On two straight possessions in the first quarter, Ingles easily beat the blitzing pick-and-roll coverage by taking a couple dribbles and then finding Gobert for a dunk. That set the tone for the game with Gobert slamming down eight dunks, just one off his career high.

"I think it's like the easiest coverage to beat," Ingles said. "We got an unselfish team, which helps as well. I think I got him on the first one — the hedge wasn't super aggressive, which I don't know if that was the plan or not, obviously."

Ingles got Gobert on the second and the seventh one as well; Jordan Clarkson, Trent Forrest and Mike Conley (three times) also found Gobert down low for the easiest 2 points in the game.

For the most part, all of the dunks came from the same action, too. Portland doubled the ball-handler, which led to a quick swing pass that eventually found Gobert under the rim, or some other open shot near the basket.

In the end, it wasn't a wise defensive approach; it played right into the hands of what Utah does best — move the ball and shoot quickly.

"I thought our guys were unselfish and got off the ball when they needed to," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "And then obviously, as you spread it out and make some shots, all of a sudden lanes to the basket open up."

Donovan Mitchell led the team in scoring with 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting, and Clarkson added 22 points off the bench. Gobert, meanwhile, finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds.

Utah's All-NBA center knows the shots won't always be there; before and after Monday's game he proudly boasted about how the Jazz have an offense that forces opponents to pick their poison, so to speak.

Opposing teams can either stay in the paint to stop Gobert's rolls or they can stick on shooters and allow Gobert to have some free runs to the basket.

That sometimes leads to Gobert not having many opportunities to score — like on Saturday in Utah's get-right win over the New Orleans Pelicans when he had just four shot attempts; but it can lead to games like Monday's when he was 9 of 11 from the field.

It's pretty easy to shoot over 80% when you're over 7-feet tall and most of the attempts are dunks.

"I mean, I think as long as we play the right way, I don't really care how many shots I get," Gobert said. "If we attack where it hurts and make the right read, we're gonna get either me under the rim or wide open 3s. It's all about the way we play."

Gobert was quick to add, though, that he'd prefer that the four shot attempts are few and far between — hey, not everyone is as content with setting up shots as much as Ingles is.

Ingles, who started in place of the injured Royce O'Neale, had 14 points and a team-high six assists in the win.

"The enjoyment for me, obviously, is playing the game in front of 20,000 people, but then getting JC the ball where he wants or helping Don out so it's not so tough on him, or Mike or getting Rudy the ball so he's not pointing up every position to get an alley-oop," Ingles said.

Add the stellar offensive performance to what was one of Utah's best defensive efforts of the season (at least for the first 2.5 quarters), and it made for a relatively comfortable night for the Jazz.

Utah limited former Weber State guard Damian Lillard to just 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, with Conley and Gobert mainly being the ones to stop all drives to the paint.

Gobert stopped dunks and got his own, including a highlight reel one-hander when Trent Forrest's lob went a little too high.

"I like a little challenge sometimes; when they throw it and I have to reach back," Gobert said. "I'm just happy to get a lob. No matter where it is, I'm trying to get it."

He paused for a brief moment and then finished: "Most of the time I get it."


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