1. Utah’s Post-Trade Deadline Defense Continues To Be Deadly
Since the Trade Deadline passed, the Utah Jazz have faced four playoff-bound teams (Milwaukee, Portland, San Antonio and Memphis). Against those stretch of opponents, the Jazz have been victorious in every single one of those matchups, while keeping the opposition to under 85 points.
In Tuesday night’s game against the Grizzlies, Utah’s defense were able to maintain that awe-inspiring stretch. Although Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors remained as the anchors of the team’s devastating defense, back-court players like Dante Exum and Gordon Hayward were able to provide their own support. Among that trio, Exum perhaps had the most impressive defensive performance, as he prevented Mike Conley from having much of an impact, kept to only 11 points on 4-11 shooting.
For Hayward, he was a thorn in the side of the Grizzlies’ offense for the entire game, as he helped force three of the team’s eleven turnovers.
2. Rudy Gobert Makes History
At this point in the season, the impact that Rudy Gobert brings on a night-by-night basis should no longer be a mystery. However, that shouldn’t take away from just how entertaining it is to watch him perform, and seem to improve during single game.
While he didn’t record a single block shot against Memphis, Gobert was still able to be the most entertaining player for either Utah or Memphis. Throughout the night, Gobert was a dominant force on both the offensive and defensive glass. Although that shouldn’t come as a surprise (Gobert is averaging 12 rebounds per 36 minutes), tonight’s game was a different type of amazing as he collected a career-high 24 rebounds.
To put that in historical perspective, Gobert’s 24 rebounds are the most boards that have ever been collected against the Grizzlies franchise.
3. 2nd Half Domination
Despite the dominant performance of both Rudy Gobert and the entire Jazz defense, Memphis entered the 2nd half with a 38-37 lead over Utah. That score quickly went into the Jazz’s favor thanks in part to Gordon Hayward. In that 3rd quarter, Hayward took over the Jazz offense, as he had 13 points on 6-8 shooting. While we’ve seen those kind of performances before, Hayward entered the night shooting 35% from the field since the All-Star break, which one of the more troubling aspects of an otherwise two-week span.
In the 2nd half, where he scored 15 points on 7-10 shooting, Hayward exhibited an aggressive nature as he kept on attacking the Grizzlies front-line. Of Hayward’s seven made field goals, three of those were from within the restricted area. That’s definitely a great sign for Hayward, as being an effective cutter could eventually lead to him returning to his status as an all-around scoring threat.
Alongside Hayward, struggling rookie Dante Exum was able to show off his distributing skills, as he had four assists during the 2nd half. While Exum will need to carry this over to the next upcoming games to see if he’s truly improving as a distributor, it’s a solid first step away from one of the biggest weaknesses that has held back the young Aussie.
Lost in Gobert’s rebounding dominance was how he was a pretty consistent force on the offensive end, where he had 13 points on 5-6 shooting. In that 2nd half, Gobert displayed his growing offensive skills through on and off-ball cuts and a pretty snazzy post-up move on one of the best defenders in the NBA.