The Jazz easily handled the Timberwolves Wednesday night, 136-104. As a team, Minnesota shot 18-of-41 (43.9%) in the paint, scoring just 36 points there, which is the effect three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert has on teams.
After the game, Patrick Beverley and Anthony Edwards called out Gobert’s defense, questioning how good he really is. From Timberwolves beat writer Dane Moore and Chris Hine of the Star Tribune (hat tip Bleacher Report).
Patrick Beverley on Rudy Gobert, the Defensive Player of the Year, not taking the challenge of guarding the Timberwolves best player, Karl-Anthony Towns: pic.twitter.com/HKlPUna8cu
— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) December 9, 2021
Anthony Edwards said the best rim protector in the league is Kristaps Porzingis. On Rudy Gobert, Ant was honest …
'Anytime I go against Porzingis, I don’t get no layups. I don’t get why we couldn’t finish on Rudy Gobert. He don’t put no fear in my heart. I don’t know why."
— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) December 9, 2021
Edwards was 1-of-4 at the rim in this game, taking a lot more jumpers, including eight 3-pointers. Maybe Edwards was still raw about this.
Rudy Gobert threw water onto the floor, stopping play and wiping off Ant's 3-pointer. pic.twitter.com/1GljiGiiVI
— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) December 9, 2021
This is Beverley and Ant trying to play mind games (the two teams play again on Dec. 23). They know the Jazz’s defensive system — they are currently seventh in the NBA defensively — is to drop Gobert into the paint and let him protect the rim, something he does as well or better than anyone in the league. Against the Wolves, Gobert “guarded” guys who can’t shoot 3s so he could sag off and shut down the paint. It worked and the Jazz won going away. This was an attempt by Beverley and Edwards to go at Gobert’s ego.
Players, generally, also highly value one-on-one skills. It’s a pickup-game mentality, players who can take a guy off the dribble and get to the rim, guys with isolation skills, are seen as better because that’s the guy a player can’t stop in a playground game. Following the same logic, a player with strong on-ball defensive skills is seen as more valuable, a guy who is hard to get around and score.
Gobert can do some of that defensively, but the Jazz coaches recognized his rim-protecting skill set and designed a defense to funnel rim attacks at him to shut them down. It’s been highly effective, and why Gobert has a full trophy case.
But Beverley and Ant can try to get in his head if they think that will work. Gobert will look at the scoreboard and laugh.