I just tried to be aggressive. My teammates (were) giving the ball in great positions. Just try to finish and be aggressive. —Rudy Gobert
SALT LAKE CITY — When discussions about Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert come up, they usually concern his defensive prowess.
There’s certainly good reason for that, as the 7-foot-1 Frenchman has used his 7-foot-9 wingspan to make life almost impossible for opponents in the paint as he enters the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year.
But on Wednesday night against the New York Knicks at Vivint Arena, it was Gobert’s play on the offensive end that was noticed most, even if he still ended up with four blocked shots.
Gobert finished with a career-high 35 points to go along with 13 rebounds, 11 of which were of the offensive variety.
The point total was another reminder of the tremendous strides Gobert has made this season on offense. Consider that before this season, he had scored only 20 points in a game once, and that was two years ago. Three years ago, he scored in double digits once.
This year he is averaging 13.5 points per game and his season-high before Wednesday was 27.
“I just tried to be aggressive,” he said after the game. “My teammates (were) giving the ball in great positions. Just try to finish and be aggressive.”
Gobert was aggressive, but he was also incredibly efficient. He missed his first shot less than 90 seconds into the contest, but then made his final 13. His 14 shot attempts were the most he’s had in a game all season.
Then there was the offensive rebounding. While Gobert had grabbed 13 or more rebounds 37 times this season entering Wednesday, his 11 boards on the offensive glass were a season high.
Of his offensive rebounds, two resulted in immediate putbacks, on two he got fouled and made both free throws (he finished 9 of 12 from the charity stripe) and on one George Hill made a jumper on the Jazz’s second chance.
“I think he’s got good timing, but I think his strength and his balance is something he’s worked on, and as a result you see him with those tip-ins,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of his center’s putbacks. “Some of them, it’s not like they’re right in front of him. He’s reaching around and making plays. It’s a little bit of everything.”
In fact, Snyder said he has instructed his guards and wings to be aggressive at getting to the basket so that, even if they miss a shot at the rim when Gobert’s in the game, he has a chance of getting an offensive rebound.
“If you attack the rim and don’t settle and play with force on offense, sometimes with Rudy if you just get the ball up on the basket, he’s got a chance of tipping it in,” Snyder said. “It’s a credit to Gordon (Hayward), George (Hill), those guys that are going to the basket that they draw help. Once he’s there, he’s so long, it’s tough to get him off the glass.”
Knicks coach and former Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek was complimentary of Gobert’s performance, even if he felt like his team didn’t do a very good job of containing the big man on the boards.
“You can’t think that you are just going to semi-box him out,” Hornacek said. “He’s going to reach over the top of you. He’s long. He’s strong. You’ve got to crack him. You’ve got to hit him hard. We just didn’t do that.”
Gobert, for one, had an air of humility about his performance.
“You know, like I said, I’m just playing basketball. I think I did a pretty good job,” he said. “I didn’t get that many rebounds. I just tried to be aggressive.”