1. Rudy Gobert was everything we wanted him to be
Rudy Gobert played at an absolute All-NBA level Wednesday night, at both ends of the floor.
Offensive, he was a monster: 23 points on 14 shots, showing the kind of finals he displays when he is at his best. Of course, there were dunks, but he also made stops (left-handed, even!) And scooped as he ended up in contact.
Joe Ingles explained some of what was happening when I told him about it. "Many teams are now pushing him on the free throw line to keep him from rolling. Tonight was different, they leave their last five years and that gives him a little freedom, "said Ingles.
But I'm really impressed by the defense, where he made life incredibly difficult for the Nets in the form that earned him the title of Defensive Player of the Year last year. Gobert was found with four blocks, but the way the Nets pulled along the rim was even more revealing: they only made 11 of the 25 rim shots and shot only 5- 19 on anything between the restricted area and 14 feet away. I will do the math for you: 16/44 in total, for only 36% of shots closest to basketball. It's a huge victory.
"Gobert makes a huge difference," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told the media. "Even when they make a mistake, he's back. Obviously, he's on the edge of the elite, so we do not look good. "
Interestingly, Ingles also said that Gobert's teammates had told him about the possibility of recovering the DPOY form. "That's what we expect from him, in fact, that's what he's been doing all his career. We all challenged him, we talked to him about it. I think he's been a little up and down this year, but he's really done it and is proud of the defensive side. "
Of course, he is not alone on the defensive and the guards of Jazz have also improved a lot tonight. But when Gobert has such an impact, well, Jazz is really hard to beat.
2. Donovan Mitchell was semi-nova
I do not think we can say that Mitchell was a hot "supernova" on Wednesday night. He made 12 of his 24 shots, exactly half, for his 29 points. And he scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, which is good, but not like "a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of the mass of a star," which is brilliant.
So, I go with "semi-nova". In the fourth quarter, he shot 6-11, making and missing difficult shots while creating easy appearances. But that was exactly what the Jazz needed, as most of the team members had been cold "brown dwarfs" earlier in the game. During three quarters, the Jazz only shot 6-22 out of three, they only made two-thirds of their free throws and generally had trouble scoring the ball. You know, jazz stuff.
Then Mitchell came in and spoke to his family and friends from New York and neighboring areas.
In many ways, it reinforces something that Dennis Lindsey told me on Tuesday, namely that the Jazz offense was difficult to assess without Mitchell's presence. "Donovan Mitchell, for example, has missed four games and three games, nearly 30% of the season, what types of offensive dilemmas does that create?"
The Jazz are 1-6 this season when Mitchell misses all or part of the match, which means that they are 9-6 when he is healthy. It's much better, and that should perhaps alleviate worries around Jazzland.
This is also the proof: Donovan Mitchell is a star, whatever his temperature.
3. Two Jazz table guards, without Burks, are getting ready
With Alec Burks traded, the Jazz needed some help to score tonight on his bench. They received it from two unlikely sources, Royce O'Neale and Raul Neto.
O'Neale scored 13 points and scored his three attempts, the first time he has had three in the regular season since the closing date last year. But I was encouraged by the fact that O'Neale is actively shooting instead of avoiding the long ball as he has done in recent games. It is only the third time this year that it takes three or more. (Say that three times fast.)
When O'Neale misses open fire, he kills the attack and rewards the defense that chose to help him. By entering the game, the Jazz had been surpassed by 12.2 points for 100 possessions with O'Neale on the ground, a radical departure from the +10 he had been last season. Games like this suggest that he can regain that level.
Neto's game is more based on average shooting, which the Jazz could use more against some formations. Remember, the big players in Brooklyn were playing deep in the paint, leaving room for the shooters in the middle. Jazz wants to be smart to take these pictures, but not too much, but if other things do not work, the mid-range may become an option. In addition, at least one mid-distance shot is not a turnaround, and Neto has avoided doing it tonight.
Meanwhile, Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum had dark nights of offense, although both had contributed to the defense. Rubio made zero shots (aside from his six free throws) nine times, including a 0-5 in the 3-point range. But Neto had a considerable playing time – almost 16 minutes – because Dante Exum continued to struggle. He played just under seven minutes after making three terrible turnovers in the first period. When he played in the second half, he played the ball in the place of the two guards.
Kyle Korver should be able to help solve this guard problem and improve the shot of the Jazz, if he is able to stay on the defensive ground. More analysis on that coming tomorrow.