1. Rudy Gobert is everything we want
Rudy Gobert played at the absolute All-NBA level on Wednesday night, at both ends of the floor.
On offense, he is a monster: 23 points from 14 shots, showing the sort of finishing around the rim he showed when he was at his best. Of course, there are dunks, but he also made a hook shot (left-handed, even!) And scoop layups when he finished through contact.
Joe Ingles explained part of what happened when I asked him about it. "Many teams are now jacking it up in the free throw line to stop it. It's different tonight, they left their toddlers all the way back and it gave him a little free run, "Ingles said.
But the tip of the defense was where I was truly impressed, where he made life very difficult for the Nets with a form that made him win the Best Supporting Player last year. Gobert ends with four blocks, but the more accurate way is how the Nets shoot around the rim: they only make 11 of their 25 rim shots, and shoot only 5-19 on anything between the restricted area and 14 feet out. I will do the math for you: it's 16/44 overall, because only 36 percent take pictures of the nearest basketball. That's a big victory.
"Gobert makes a big difference," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told the media. "Even when they made a mistake, he returned there. He is clearly an elite presence in the rim, so we don't get good looks. "
Interestingly, Ingles also said that Gobert's team mates had talked to him about getting back the DPOY form. "That's what we expect from him, really, that's what he did throughout his career. We all challenged him, we talked to him about it. I think he's a little up and down this year, but he really has changed the angle and taken pride at the defensive end. "
Of course, he wasn't alone in defense, and the Jazz guards really improved tonight too. But when Gobert made an impact like this, well, Jazz was really hard to beat.
2. Donovan Mitchell goes to semi-Nova
I think we can't say that Mitchell was a hot "supernova" on Wednesday night. He made 12 of his 24 shots, exactly half, for 29 points. And he scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, which is good, but not, like, "a huge explosion that spouted most of the star mass" was brilliant.
So I went with "semi-Nova". In the fourth quarter, he shot 6-11, both making and losing hard shots and creating an easy appearance for himself. But that's exactly what Jazz needs, because most teams have appeared "brown dwarfs" cold before in the game. Through three quarters, the Jazz only shoots 6-22 of three, only makes two thirds of their free throws, and generally has a difficult time to score. You know, Jazz things.
And then Mitchell entered and took over in front of his family and friends from NYC and the surrounding area.
In many ways, it gave credence to something Dennis Lindsey said on Tuesday, that Jazz violations were difficult to evaluate without Mitchell out there. "Donovan Mitchell, for example, missed four games and three other parts, it was close to 30 percent of the season. What kind of attacker's dilemma happened?"
Jazz is 1-6 this season when Mitchell missed some or all of the games, which means they are 9-6 when he is healthy. That's much better, and maybe you should reduce some of the worries about Jazzland.
This is also proof of this: Donovan Mitchell is a star, no matter what his temperature.
3. Two Jazz bench guards, without Burks, step forward
With Alec Burks being traded, Jazz needs some help scoring from their bench tonight. They got it from two impossible sources, Royce O'Neale and Raul Neto.
O’Neale scored 13 points and reached three of these 3-point attempts, the first time he has reached three three in the regular season since before the trade deadline last year. But I was encouraged that O’Neale actively took his shot, rather than avoiding the long ball like he did in the last game. Only the third time this year he took three or more. (Say three times quickly.)
When O’Neale shares an open image, it kills the offense and rewards the defense for choosing to help him. Coming into the game, Jazz has been outscored by 12.2 points per 100 treasures with O & Ne 39 on the floor, a drastic reversal of +10 he last season. Games like this give reason to be optimistic that he can find that level again.
Net games rely more on medium distance retrieval, something that the Jazz can use more to fight certain formations. Remember, Brooklyn bigs play deep in the paint, leaving room for shooters to jump in the middle. Jazz wants to be smart in taking the shot, and doesn't take too much, but if other things don't work, mid-range can be an option. Also, at least the mid-range shots are not alternates, and Neto avoids making one of them tonight.
Meanwhile, Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum had a bad night, even though both of them contributed to defending themselves. Rubio made zero shots (other than his six free throws) in nine experiments, including 0-5 from a 3-point distance. But Neto got a significant playing time – almost 16 minutes – because Dante Exum continued to fight. He played just under seven minutes after making three terrible turnovers in the first round. When he played in the second half, he played the ball in the place of two guards.
Kyle Korver should have been able to help with this guard problem, and clearly improve Jazz shooting, provided he could survive on the floor in self-defense. More analysis about that tomorrow will come.