I’m playing with confidence, and when you have confidence, you’re going to take advantage of that. —Ricky Rubio
SALT LAKE CITY — Ricky Rubio says he’s never had to do what he’s done over the Utah Jazz’s last few games.
A professional since he was 14, Rubio has throughout his career been his squad’s primary playmaker, setting up teammates for shots. He’s certainly done a good job of that, as he recently became the third fastest among active players to reach the 3,000-assist milestone for his career.
But in each of the Jazz’s last three games, Rubio has eclipsed the 20-point mark, getting to a team-high 30 in Utah’s 112-103 overtime victory against the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night at Vivint Arena.
More important than the total number of points, it was the fact that he scored 10 in overtime and 11 in the extra period that carried the Jazz to the win.
“It was five minutes left,” he said of his overtime performance. “It’s a game that we’re going to remember at the end of the season because it’s a team we’re going to play for spots in the playoffs. We had to win, especially at home. I felt comfortable. I was trying to do what was working for us. Sometimes it was my shot, sometimes it was other guys getting open. It felt good.”
In truth, Rubio did all his overtime offensive damage in the final 2:14. With Utah up 102-98, he made a jumper from 16 feet out to start things off, made all six of his free-throw attempts during that time period to ice the game and hit a 3-pointer to with 31 seconds left to punctuate the Jazz victory.
On the night, Rubio made eight of his 17 shots from the field, was 3-of-6 from 3-point range and was a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line.
“I’m playing with confidence, and when you have confidence, you’re going to take advantage of that,” he said.
Utah head coach Quin Snyder credited Rubio for the hard work he’s put in since being traded to the Jazz on June 30, particularly as it relates to watching film with the coaching staff.
“When you’re investing that much in something, you just play,” Snyder said. “It gives you confidence. That’s what we’ve tried to instill in him, is that confidence. He hasn’t abused that in any way.”
As for Rubio taking over the scoring load down the stretch (he actually had just one assist on the night), Snyder said it just came down to the fact that the Spaniard was playing hard.
“As far as allowing him to do that, it’s kind of a given that we want him to play and attack and play with confidence,” the coach said. “If that means hitting 3s, great. If that means making passes, and it always means defense.”
It’s thanks to Rubio working hard that Snyder has developed confidence in his point guard, and he challenged him after the game to continue that work.
“I guess it’s the faith concept,” Snyder said. “We have faith in him. I have faith in him, and I’ve had that from day one. He’s earned that not with his made 3s, but just with the way he’s worked. I don’t care how many 3s he hits. He’s got to keep working and he’s got to keep getting better.”