When Utah tipped off with Portland on Monday night, most eyes were focused on the showdown between two of the top backcourts in the NBA: Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley against Portland’s Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Who could blame fans for focusing on that matchup? The Jazz and Blazers — along with Phoenix and Golden State (once Klay Thompson returns) — are hands down the creme-de-la-creme of the league.

Unfortunately for Portland, one person who never got that memo regarding that top-tier matchup was Rudy Gobert. 

The 7-footer from France stole the show with his 16th double-double of the season. He finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, leading Utah to a 129-107 victory over Portland.

“Rudy is incredible how he manages that paint down there,” Portland head coach Chauncey Billups said. “He’s a dominant defender down there, even shots he doesn’t block, he has an impact on. Guys won’t even shoot, or they drive and kick it. … He’s incredible at what he does.”

Here are five things you need to know following the win:

1.) Rudy Gobert Dominates On Both Ends
Gobert is proving that his early-season breakout was no fluke in what’s becoming a central theme for Utah this season. Against Portland on Monday night, he was sensational on both ends of the court as he finished with a game-high +29 rating in 32 minutes.

Defensively, the big man did a great job of defending the pick-and-roll, not allowing Lillard and McCollum to attack downhill while still proving agile and quick enough to close out on shooters.

“Just try to make his life a little harder with drives and driving him into me pretty much. … Make sure we don’t give up easy 3’s,” Gobert said about defending the high-scoring Lillard.

Offensively, he was a monster on the block, finishing with an NBA-high eight dunks. He did an excellent job of not getting sped up when getting the ball in the paint, constantly kicking the ball out and finding the open man for three-pointers, tying his season-high with three assists.

“As long as we play the right way, I don’t care how many shots I get,” said Gobert, who finished 9-of-11 from the floor. “If we attack where it hurts and make the right read, we’re going to get me under the rim or wide-open threes. It’s all about the way we play. … As long as we move the ball and share the ball, it doesn’t really matter.”

2.) Donovan Mitchell Can Still Dunk — And Then Some
For whatever reason, Mitchell’s dunking capabilities have been called into question. While it’s clear that he’s more than capable of throwing down a thunderous dunk, the uber-athletic and explosive Mitchell hasn’t shown that side of his game very often.

But when he got the chance on Monday to leave his mark, he made sure to do so with emphatic fashion.

Great anticipation on defense led to a steal at the top of the three-point line, allowing him a free drive to the hoop and the opportunity to rock the rim — doing just that and sending the Vivint Arena crowd into a frenzy.

It was a rare moment where the ever-humble Mitchell let loose, playing into the crowd and showing off some of his patented, low-key swagger. It might’ve only last a second or two because he immediately ran back on defense — but it was a moment where Mitchell was staking his claim as one of the elite guards in the league.

3.) Joe Ingles Is Dangerous In the Starting Lineup — But He Doesn’t Care
For the most part, NBA players believe that they’re all capable of starting for their respective teams or deserving of more playing time. It’s the sort of mindset that’s allowed to thrive so much and end up in the league, so no one can blame them for that.

But for Joe Ingles, that’s not the case.

He’s one of the rare players who doesn’t care if he plays 40 minutes starting or 10 minutes coming off the bench. Whatever is needed to help the team, Ingles is happy to oblige and do just that.

Traditionally used off the bench as one of the best reserves in the league, Ingles also starts for the Jazz when either Mitchell, Conley, Royce O’Neale, or Bojan Bogdanovic are out. He’s done so the past two games as O’Neale is recovering from a right foot/ankle sprain — and the results have been impressive.

Ingles is averaging 14.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 28 minutes over the past two games. He’s posted a +18 and +23 rating in the back-to-back wins, showing off his ability to knock down shots, find the open man, and generally run the offense when needed. 

“Do I enjoy starting? Yeah, it’s fun. Do I also enjoy coming off the bench with JC (Jordan Clarkson) and jacking a bunch of threes? It’s two different styles,” Ingles said with a laugh.

Ingles will probably head back into his super-sub role once O’Neale returns to the court. For now, his ability to slide into that starting lineup and be effective is a true testament to his maturity and overall skill level.

4.) Ball Movement Defines Utah’s Offense
The Jazz proved how deadly their offense could be for the second game in a row when the ball constantly moves. When the players elect to pass up good shots for great shots, Utah has proven that it’s a team capable of being nearly unstoppable.

While Portland — and New Orleans, for that matter — aren’t considered among the top defensive units in the league, the Jazz were able to dominate both of them to the tune of 129 and 127 points, respectively. 

On Monday, Utah shot 52.8% (47-for-89) from the floor and 41.3% (19-for-46) from three-point territory. 

While those are awe-inspiring numbers, the number that matters most is the team dishing out 30 assists on the night. Every starter finished with at least two assists — led by Ingles and Conley’s with six apiece — while Clarkson and Trent Forrest added three each off the bench. 

With the ball moving as it did against Portland, a message was sent to the rest of the league. Blitz the pick-and-roll and the Jazz will move the ball to find the open shooters. Stay back and try to defend two players with one and it’ll result in a layup or dunk. 

5.) Close Out Homestand Strong
After starting the season with two separate three-game road trips within their first 10 games, the Jazz have played nine of their past 11 games from the comfortable confines of Vivint Arena. 

That homestand’s final game will come on Friday when Utah hosts Boston, a team beginning to find its rhythm with victories in four of their past six games. 

It’ll be important for the Jazz to finish the homestand strong since the past two games have come and gone in blowout victories. The Jazz have found a rhythm on both ends of the court, proving that the early-season funk is over.

Keeping that consistency will be key, especially considering Utah will embark on a four-game road trip against teams currently in the playoff standings after Friday’s game.


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