Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert‘s playoff defense was indefensible for the Utah Jazz.
While the top-seeded Jazz were able to get past the upstart No. 8-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in five games in their first-round series, Ja Morant and company clearly exposed something in Utah defensively. In the Jazz’s 11 playoff games this season, Utah allowed at least 109 points in each contest. They surrendered at least 120 points on three occasions, losing all three of those games.
The worst part in all of this for the Jazz was Gobert was a defensive liability vs. the LA Clippers.
Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert’s defensive issues led to their postseason downfall
While Utah had to battle the Clippers without point guard Mike Conley Jr. for most of the series, it is hard to overlook the net-negative Gobert was on the floor in the final four games of the best-of-seven. Gobert had a -16 plus/minus in Game 3’s 26-point road loss at Staples Center. While he was a net-negative in Games 4 and 5, his -24 plus/minus in Game 6’s home blowout was rancid.
Though he had a double-double in three of the Jazz’s four straight playoff losses, Gobert never had more than 10 rebounds in any of those games and only registered two blocks. While he forced five steals in those losing efforts, Gobert was often in foul trouble. He had at least four fouls in the Jazz’s three most recent losses. The Clippers scored at least 118 points in all three victories.
The shame in it all is three-fold. One, LeBron James and the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers lost in the first round to the Phoenix Suns in six games, so Utah would have never had to play them to win the Western Conference. Two, Utah had the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and could not get out of the semifinals. And three, this team could shoot and score.
Utah had been one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league this season, averaging a league-best 43.0 attempts per game from distance. The Jazz connected on 38.9 percent of those long-range attempts, which was the fourth best in basketball. Utah scored at least 104 points in all 11 of its playoff games, including 111 or more in their final two losses of the postseason.
While it remains to be seen if the front office blows up this version of the Jazz, we have to wonder if this group has hit its definite ceiling. Utah has to get more athletic out on the wing, especially on defense. However, that will come at a great price offensively, especially when it comes to 3-point shooting. As far as building a team around Gobert, the atrocious Clippers series loss was damning.
Once again, the best defensive player in the NBA let down his team defensively when it mattered.