The 8th Best Player Performance of 2017-18

September 6th, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

After scoring 31, including an incredible 25 in the first half, while distributing eight assists, Ricky Rubio exited the Utah Jazz’s 117 – 110 home victory over the Los Angeles Lakers a hero on the cusp of his first trip to the post-season. (Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

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 and also check out #10 and #9 to from previous weeks!

#8: Ricky Rubio, April 3, 2018

Jazz 117, Lakers 110 in L.A.

31 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 63% field goals, 4 of 7 from three, 7 of 7 free throws. [26.2 PIE, 29.6 GmSc]1

Context

The Jazz were tearing through the NBA. Winners of 13 of their last 16 games, a team once left for dead in the playoff chase was suddenly a serious threat not only to make the post-season but to threaten for home court. While Ricky Rubio had proven capable of finishing seasons with flourishes of offense, these had never taken place with true playoff contention at stake. Now there were five games left in the season with home court or missing the playoffs completely both realistic outcomes for the season. 

Why It Makes the List

From the moment Rubio signed with the Jazz, his game posed one glaring question: what would happen when teams bet the farm that Rubio couldn’t beat them on wide open shots?

With Gobert returned from injury, Donovan Mitchell torching a league completely unprepared for his assault, and the Jazz playing arguably the best basketball in the NBA to close the season, opponents retreated to that old hope — that Rubio’s shooting woes would give them a game they were otherwise unlikely to win.

Amazingly, Rubio punished team after team resorting to this strategy. Suddenly, Utah was routinely scoring 110 or more while still cudgeling teams with the league’s best defense. They’d become the squad no one wanted to see in the playoffs.

Then, inexplicably, the Jazz lost at home to the worst team in the Leastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks — at home.

In that worst loss of the season, a disaster that potentially could make a deciding difference in their playoff seeding2, Rubio had continued his awesome scoring, notching 23 points on 14 shots. Yet he’d only managed three assists as his teammates struggled to make long contested shots. A variant of the old Rubio strategy was emerging: let Rubio have his and simply lock down the Jazz’s other shooters, particularly Mitchell and Joe Ingles.

With his first shot at the playoffs at stake, Rubio was having none of it. 

Down double figures early in the second quarter against the Lakers, Rubio took over, scoring 15 in the final six-and-a-half minutes. He went four of four from the field and five of five from the line in that span, hoisting the Jazz to a 65 – 60 lead they would not relinquish. 

As he walked off the court at halftime to a standing ovation, he’d tallied 25 points, a team-high for scoring in a half.

Then in the second half he shifted into the pure point guard the Jazz thought they were getting when they dealt for Rubio, grinding the upstart Lakers into submission in the process. While scoring only six on six shots in the half, Rubio added six assists to only one turnover as he fueled Utah’s machine-like starting lineup.

Mitchell, Ingles, Derrick Favors, and Gobert scored 39 points in the half on only 25 shots, an efficiency rate that would devastate any team in the league.  

Yes, Rubio could win games with his jumper — and this game showed he could do so with his passing as well, and in the same game3

Take Note

Rubio seems an unlikely candidate to hold Utah’s season high scoring for a half. Before this game against the Lakers, who held the previous season-high scoring half? Ricky Rubio. 23 points against San Antonio in February. 

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.
Clint Johnson

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2 Comments

  1. Paul Johnson says:

    Watching these game clips really gets me excited for the upcoming season. It has been fun for the past several years watching some of the talented, young Jazz players develop. It is even more fun seeing them start to have success and becoming a contender.

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