SALT LAKE CITY — Perhaps the two loudest cheers during Utah’s 108-103 victory over the world champion Golden State Warriors, on a night filled with many loud cheers, came midway through the third quarter on defensive plays by the Jazz.
Golden State’s Klay Thompson had a seemingly wide-open 3-pointer on the left side when Donovan Mitchell came flying towards him and blocked the shot before proceeding to go tumbling into the second row.
On the next Warriors' possession, Draymond Green was underneath the basket for what looked like an easy layup, only to have Rudy Gobert leap across to swat the ball away. Later in the quarter, Gobert got Green again as he drove down the left side of the lane on a layup for another block.
Mitchell modestly said he was making up for a defensive mistake on his block and tried to avoid hitting Gobert’s mother on the front row.
“I was late. That was a mistake on my part. So if I didn’t block it, it was probably going in, so I just gave it my all. And I didn’t want to jump into Rudy’s mom, so I just jumped over her.”
When Gobert was asked about his blocks, he gave the standard answer about “protecting the rim,” while Mitchell, at the locker next to him, tried to goad him into saying more about Green, who talks a lot and is considered as one of the top defensive players in the league along with Gobert.
“Say it . . . say it . . . say what you want to say,” Mitchell said, as Gobert tried to keep a straight face. But he didn't say anything about being extra motivated against Green.
“I was just protecting the rim and my teammates were doing a great job guarding the 3-point line,” Gobert said. “It’s all about trust, making sure I have their back. I have to be there to cover them at the rim and we did a good job tonight.”
When asked point blank if he was the best defensive player in the league, Gobert answered, “I believe so, but it’s a team game, so it’s what we do as a team.”
Green didn't address Gobert's blocks, but was impressed with Utah’s defense Wednesday, saying, “They played good defense tonight. They were all over Klay. You have to give them some credit, they played good defense. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”
The Jazz improved to 15-17 with the victory, but they have a tough stretch ahead as they try to get back to .500 again and make some headway in the tough Western Conference, where they currently rank No. 12.
The Jazz play at Portland Friday night (8 p.m. MT) at the Moda Center, then return back home for a Saturday night game against Oklahoma City. Then they’ll play the Trail Blazers again on Christmas night (8:30 p.m. MT) in a nationally-televised game before facing Philadelphia on Thursday night.
“Tonight we played defense and kept plugging away,” said Mitchell. “It starts with tonight. We can’t say we did it one night and expect to do it again. We fought with grit and we’ve got to keep doing it. We’ve got a tough stretch coming up but we’ve got to continue to play this way.”Comment on this story
JAZZ NOTES: Friday’s game will mark the first of four meetings against Portland this season for the Jazz. Besides the Christmas game, the Jazz will play the Blazers Jan. 21 at home and Jan. 30 on the road . . . Early in the season, the Blazers were atop the Western Conference standings, but are now 18-13 in a tie for fourth . . . Former Weber State star Damian Lillard leads Portland with a 27.2 scoring average, which ranks fifth in the NBA . . . The Blazers have just three players scoring in double figures. Besides Lillard, CJ McCollum averages 21.5 ppg and center Jusuf Nurkic averages 14.4 ppg. Other likely starters for Portland include forward Al-Farouq (9.2 ppg) and forward Jake Layman (5.6 ppg) . . . Besides scoring 18 points on 5-of-9 3-point shooting Wednesday night, Jae Crowder also pulled down a season-high 11 rebounds for the Jazz.