The 10th Best Player Performance of 2017-18

August 24th, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

A double team by the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol (16) couldn’t slow down the Ricky Rubio, who scored 34 points and added nine assists in the tenth best Utah Jazz performance of last season. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Leading up to start of the 2018-19 Utah Jazz season, Salt City Hoops is counting down the ten best player performances from last season. See games that just missed the top ten here. Now to the countdown!

#10: Ricky Rubio, February 3, 2018

Jazz 120 Spurs 111 in San Antonio

34 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds, 79% field goals, 3 of 4 from three, 9 of 10 free throws. [24.6 PIE, 30.2 GmSc]1

Context

The Jazz entered this contest on a four-game winning streak yet were without Donovan Mitchell, who was the talk of the league after erupting for his SECOND 40-point game of the season the night before in Phoenix. On the wrong side of a back-to-back, they were facing a team they’d beaten in San Antonio only once since 2010.

Why It Makes the List

Rubio’s erratic opening to the season was the subject of much debate, often contentious, about his suitability for Utah’s roster, in particular its towering starting lineup with both Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors on the floor.

To this point in the season, Rubio had vacillated between the role of unlikely scoring leader — he’d notched six 20-point games and one 30-point game to this point — and offensive anchor, with five games shooting 30-percent or worse while still chucking 10-plus attempts at the rim.

Perhaps not surprising given the scoring load Rubio was trying to shoulder, which was completely out of character of his game in Minnesota, his value as a distributor had diminished. Teams routinely sagged back from the Spaniard when he had the ball and doubled off of him, daring him to shoot.

As the end of January approached and the Jazz passed the season’s halfway mark, Rubio had managed a toxic combination of fewer than five assists per game combined with under 30-percent shooting from deep. The Jazz were far outside of playoff position and the Rubio experiment looked a likely failure.

Then from nowhere Rubio’s game came together. He averaged better than 18 points with 10 assists as the Jazz thumped the Warriors and Suns, building their longest win streak in two months. But the league had seen this before, short bursts of offensive awesomeness from Rubio. It had never lasted long and never materialized early enough in a season to help Minnesota make a serious playoff push.

With Mitchell out against the top ranked home defense in the league, the Jazz offense really had no business winning this game. Then Rubio’s career scoring night carried the Jazz offense to a massive upset win and may have changed his career trajectory in the process.

While Rubio’s defensive impact wasn’t notable, his complete control of Utah’s offense — sometimes to the point of being the offense — against this defense on their home court rightly earns him the first spot on last season’s top ten performances2

Take Note

Throughout the rest of the regular season following this game, Rubio averaged better than 15 points with nearly six assists per game while shooting 41-percent from three. The Jazz ended the season 20 and six with Rubio in the lineup.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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