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'It's hilarious': Gobert responds to critiques with dominant showing against 76ers

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PHILADELPHIA — It wasn't a surprise that Rudy Gobert was met with boos when his name was announced at Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Gobert and Joel Embiid have had an unofficial rivalry for years; Gobert won Defensive Player of the Year over Ben Simmons last season and, well, NBA fans outside of Utah don't tend to appreciate Gobert's game.

So, yeah, he got the boo birds treatment.

By the end of the game, though, some in the crowd had turned those jeers toward the home team.

Gobert can have that effect.

Behind a dominant performance by the All-Star center, the Jazz rolled the 76ers 118-96 Thursday in Philadelphia in what may have been their best game of the season.

The offensive execution was excellent, there wasn't a weak-link defensively, and Utah had a number of players make major contributions.

Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell spurred a rally in the second quarter to get the Jazz (18-7) the lead; Hassan Whiteside had 12 points in the third quarter, filling in wonderfully for Gobert who was in foul trouble. Led by Mitchell's 22 points, the Jazz had eight players reach double figures.

It was one of the more complete team efforts of the year. But, like always, things still tended to revolve around Gobert; and after what was said about his game on Wednesday by two Minnesota players, how Gobert and the Jazz played Thursday was almost poetic.

"I wouldn't say it impacted me," Gobert said of the slander thrown at him by Minnesota's Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley. "It's not the first time. People take shots at me for no reason. I come here every single night to help my team win and be the best Rudy I can be.

"I never take shots at anyone. I receive a lot of shots, I don't take any shots," he continued. "I just focus on myself. When you're the best in the world at something, people become insecure and try to discredit what you do; it's gonna happen. It's not the first time, it's not the last time. I just keep being Rudy, keep being myself and keep getting better every single night."

He was at his near-best Thursday.

Gobert finished with 17 points and 21 rebounds, and grabbed 14 boards alone in the second half to help the Jazz run away from the Sixers. He outplayed Embiid and nearly frustrated him into getting ejected in the fourth quarter.

Still, even with the dominant win, the postgame conversation revolved around the random critiques that came from the Minnesota locker room.

"I don't understand," said Joe Ingles, who had 11 points and seven assists in the win. "For Edwards to say that (Kristaps) Porzingis is more intimidating is hilarious. He obviously doesn't watch enough basketball. Maybe Porzingis blocked him once or something. I don't know."

Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert, right, defends against a shot by Philadelphia 76ers' Tobias Harris during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Philadelphia.
Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert, right, defends against a shot by Philadelphia 76ers' Tobias Harris during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Philadelphia. (Photo: Chris Szagola, Associated Press)

The boos that Gobert got in Philly, though, highlighted another aspect of it all: Gobert, for all his talents and awards and dominance and everything else, is not seen in the same light as the other All-Stars in the league. Mitchell, to use just one example, had the Rookie of the Year race with Simmons all those years ago; yet, he didn't get booed by the Philadelphia faithful (at least not with the same fervor).

"He's not really saying anything back," said Whiteside, when asked why Gobert is on the end of some shots from other players. "He takes the high road a lot of times. Even now, he's a little different than me. I would have said something back, for sure."

Gobert laughed off the comments — as did Whiteside, Ingles, and most everyone else who understands how the Jazz play. They were insensible, wrong and downright funny.

"Ironically, I think he leads the league in contested shots," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "So we're trying to figure out ways to get him involved in the play regardless of who he's guarding. He can't guard everybody, but he tries to and I'd like for him to.

"He's our best isolation defender, he is the best rim protector in the league," he continued. "So a lot of times he doesn't get to decide who he guards; he's part of the larger scheme. So if he's not guarding somebody, that's on me."

That scheme worked against the Wolves; it worked again against the 76ers. The Jazz are now on a six-game winning streak and are playing their best basketball of the season.

"It's more funny than anything," Gobert said. "People are going to try and discredit what we do."

Gobert might get some boos, but he's getting plenty of wins, too.

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