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SALT LAKE CITY — Luka Doncic had already gotten one of the best of Mike Conley repeatedly and had left Royce O’Neale caught on screens for a lot of the evening.
So when Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd noticed the Jazz change Rudy Gobert onto his famous person late within the recreation, he was all smiles.
Doncic, in spite of everything, is among the most deadly offensive threats within the recreation — a participant that Jazz coach Quin Snyder needed to cease himself from persevering with to call all of the issues that he can do on the court docket. And he was up towards a man whose notion across the league says he cannot guard on the perimeter.
“That is to our benefit,” Kidd mentioned, following the sport.
However was it?
For seven minutes, Gobert switched onto Doncic and repeatedly stopped him. The Mavericks, who as much as that time had been practically unstoppable, have been held to only 10 factors in these minutes because the Jazz got here again to win the sport.
In a recreation that was extra of a chess match than any regular-season recreation deserves to be, Gobert performed the function of a do-it-all defensive menace that was nearly in all places. Isolation towards Doncic not often ends effectively for anyone; however for seven minutes, Gobert did not simply maintain his personal towards a no-doubt top-5 offensive expertise, he received the Jazz the sport.
Snyder mentioned the choice to make use of Gobert towards Doncic late was read-based. He mentioned the crew’s standard drop-big protection had made the crew too passive and had allowed Doncic to get to his spots, which in flip obtained the Mavericks too comfy.
So the Jazz switched choose and roll extra within the second half. Dallas countered by making an attempt to get Gobert matched up with Doncic.
“When he is switching, he is pretty much as good as anyone standing in entrance of guards,” Snyder mentioned of Gobert.
Friday proved that.
Because the clock ticked beneath seven minutes, Gobert switched onto Doncic for the primary of many possessions down the stretch. Doncic tried to drive however ended up being caught beneath the basket. Unable to discover a shot, he was compelled to provide the ball away because the shot clock wound down, which led to a turnover.
That was the start of the sport inside the recreation that determined Friday’s recreation.
“He is aware of I am making an attempt to remove his stepback,” Gobert mentioned. “After which he is driving and I do know he’ll attempt to use my physique after which cease, so I’ve obtained to remain balanced and soak up the contact. After which he’ll attempt to get me within the air, so I’ve obtained to remain down.”
Doncic wasn’t held scoreless — he had 8 factors within the remaining minutes; and Gobert wasn’t excellent and allowed an open 3-pointer when he dropped again an excessive amount of. However for essentially the most half, Gobert managed the sport defensively when he was matched up with the Dallas famous person. He stopped Doncic’s drives and even had an empathic block within the remaining minutes.
“Rudy did a fairly good job on him, staying in entrance and making him take robust pictures,” Bojan Bogdanovic mentioned.
“We simply trusted within the large fella and we stayed dwelling,” added Donovan Mitchell.
To Doncic, nevertheless, Gobert’s defensive efficiency wasn’t with out controversy.
“I just like the matchup. I obtained fouled, he did not name it,” Doncic mentioned. “I do know the ref, he would not like me.”
On two drives down the stretch, Doncic turned to the ref and overtly questioned the place the whistle was.
“I am not a ref. It was a bodily recreation,” Gobert mentioned. “Luka at all times pushes, so if they don’t seem to be going to name that, then they should not name the rest.”
And as for the notion — Doncic and Kidd appear to agree with it — that he cannot guard on the perimeter, Gobert mentioned: “The notion has by no means matched the numbers.”
The numbers have been on full show Friday.