The Utah Jazz have boosted their offense to near-unstoppable levels during their current road trip. The challenge of cooling down the red-hot team now falls to the slumping Washington Wizards on Saturday evening.
Only two teams have held Utah under 100 points this season: the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans. The Jazz have reeled off six straight victories while averaging 126.0 points per game in that stretch. Utah shot 50 percent or better from the field in four of those six contests.
Two factors have contributed to the success: Donovan Mitchell has been highly efficient on offense and Rudy Gobert has been stifling on defense.
Mitchell is averaging 29.7 points over Utah’s last six games while shooting 54.9 percent from the field. Gobert is averaging 13.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks.
Gobert’s play actually has been knocked by some of his peers. Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley criticized the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year earlier in the week, in part for not always guarding the other team’s best offensive player.
Gobert let his play do the talking on Thursday against Philadelphia, totaling 17 points, 21 rebounds, and two blocks in a 118-96 win over the Sixers.
“When you’re the best in the world at something, people become insecure and try to discredit what you do; it’s gonna happen,” Gobert said. “It’s not the first time, it’s not the last time. I just keep being Rudy, keep being myself and keep getting better every single night.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder noted that Gobert leads the NBA in contested shots but said it isn’t realistic to expect Gobert to guard everyone on the court. Who he guards often depends on what defensive plan Snyder and his assistant coaches employ from one game to the next.
“He’s our best isolation defender, he is the best rim protector in the league,” Snyder said. “So a lot of times he doesn’t get to decide who he guards; he’s part of the larger scheme.”
Dealing with Gobert is just one problem among many facing the Wizards.
Washington snapped a three-game losing streak with a 119-116 overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. Kyle Kuzma hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left to help the Wizards win after they blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead.
“This is a good win for us,” said Bradley Beal, who finished with 25 points against the Pistons. “It wasn’t pretty, but we did what we needed to do to win the game. That’s always the goal.”
Washington gave up 116 points in three of its previous four losses, although defense wasn’t an issue as much as offense. The San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors each held the Wizards under 100 points.
From Nov. 29-Dec. 5, Washington had four straight contests where it shot 32 percent or worse from 3-point range. They went 1-3 in those games. Getting going from the outside will be crucial going up against a rim protector like Gobert.
The Wizards swept the season series with Utah a year ago as Beal averaged 38.5 points in the two games.
–Field Level Media