He was huge for us (Saturday). That is how we expect him to play. I know that he is just getting back with his knee and everything, getting in a rhythm. He was really good for us. —Gordon Hayward
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Trey Burke used the adjective “monstrous” while elaborating on Rudy Gobert’s game Saturday.
The description was apt, especially perhaps because the French center has jokingly referred to himself as being “Gob-zilla.” He was a beast while leading the Jazz to a blowout win over the Lakers with 18 points, 18 rebounds and five blocked shots.
A Jazz player hadn’t had that type of night since Rich Kelley totaled the same amount of points, boards and blocks in 1979. Detroit’s Andre Drummond is the only player in the NBA to have garnered at least that many in a game in those three categories this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It was a monstrous game,” Burke said after the 109-82 victory. “It looks like he’s feeling good out there, running up and down. It looks like his knee is better. We’re going to need that from him all year — and his ability to block shots, rebound and finish around the rim is great.” There’s no denying the impact that the 7-foot-1 Gobert makes on the court for the Jazz.
In the six games he’s been back, Utah has allowed an average of 98.1 points per 100 possessions, which is the sixth-best defensive rating in the NBA during that time period.
During his 18-game absence, the Jazz allowed 107.0 points per 100 possessions, which was the seventh-worst in the league.
“He was huge for us (Saturday). That is how we expect him to play,” Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. “I know that he is just getting back with his knee and everything, getting in a rhythm. He was really good for us.”
Gobert said he’s feeling good since returning a week and a half ago from an injury-caused absence. He missed 16 games after spraining the MCL in his left knee. The Jazz went 7-9 without him and are 3-3 in his return (a record that might be better if Derrick Favors wasn’t out with a back injury).
“I just feel better. My legs are stronger,” Gobert said Saturday night. “My cardio was better this game. I didn’t get really tired, so that was a good thing.”
In Thursday’s loss to the Kings, Gobert tweaked his recovering knee and hobbled around on it before continuing to play. He said he didn’t have any pain in the joint after the lopsided win over the Lakers.
“I don’t want to think about it (the knee). When you think about it, that’s when you compensate and get hurt somewhere else,” he said. “If you focus on the knee and then you relax on the right leg, I’m going to get hurt on the right leg. So I’ve just got to play.”
Fortunately for the Jazz, Gobert seems to be getting his game back right now — something they need with the absence of Favors and Trevor Booker (concussion).
While he appreciated Gobert’s output Saturday and his effort since returning, Jazz coach Quin Snyder is not spouting out hyperbole about the Stifle Tower’s play of late.
“We can’t react too much to Rudy’s performance. How many games has he played now? Six,” Snyder said. “Within those six, this is probably one of the better ones that he’s had. He’s going to have another bad one at some point and he’s going to have a better one. I think the challenge is, let’s look at what he did to have some success.”
Finishing at the rim is one thing Snyder credited him for doing well.
“He looked like he had settled down a little bit,” Snyder said. “There were balls that he can catch that he wasn’t catching.”
Gobert responded to that compliment, saying, “I think it goes in my legs too. I’m just trying to be more aggressive. I feel like my teammates, you know, had confidence in me a little bit more in this game too. I think the more I touch the ball, the better I feel.”
Snyder added that it takes awhile for teammates to adjust to players returning from injury, especially when they’re unique like the athletic and long Gobert.
The Jazz coach rattled off a list of things peculiar to Gobert’s game: the fact that you can pass him the ball higher on lobs, preventing easy tips; not making bounce passes to him because of his height; and not fouling your man when he drives because Gobert is back there as an eraser ready to help make your mistake disappear into the fifth row.
“If you don’t foul, he gets a block. If you foul, he gets two free throws,” Snyder said. “Those are all the types of things that I think we’ve got to get used to Rudy, and Rudy’s got to continue to get used to the tempo of the game and playing.”
JAZZ NOTES: Today's game at Charlotte is a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee and tips off at noon MST. It also begins a four-game Eastern swing for Utah, which also plays both New York teams and Washington on the week-long trip. Power forward Trevor Booker has been given the green light to return to the lineup Monday at Charlotte after passing the NBA’s concussion protocol. He was hit in the head on accident by DeMarcus Cousins in the third quarter of Thursday's game and missed Saturday's action with the head injury. Power forward Derrick Favors traveled with the team and is listed as questionable with lower back soreness. Utah and Charlotte are 18-22. Former Jazz center Al Jefferson is out with a knee injury for the Hornets, who've lost nine of 10.