Pick-and-roll with Rudy Gobert helps Utah Jazz power through late miscues against Grizzlies

For the first two quarters Friday night at Vivint Arena, the Utah Jazz were back to being the team that ran roughshod over the rest of the NBA.Donovan Mitchell was lethally efficient. Bojan Bogdanovic was in rhythm. Rudy Gobert was a finishing machine off of pick-and-rolls. The team defense was a swarming, smothering, rotating beast.And in the latter two quarters? Well … Gobert was still a finishing machine off of pick-and-rolls.Enough so that even as most everything else went wrong, the Jazz still managed to overcome a second-half swoon and fend off the Memphis Grizzlies 117-114.Gobert finished with 25 points on 11-for-14 shooting, to go along with nine rebounds and two blocks.While the Jazz have become known for their 3-point prowess, it was an old-school pick-and-roll that was their most reliable offensive weapon on Friday night.With the Grizzlies selling out to stop the 3, they were practically daring the Jazz to make the PNR work.Mitchell and Gobert … Mike Conley and Gobert … Joe Ingles and Gobert … Jordan Clarkson and Gobert … every combination with Gobert on the receiving end did its job.“Joe, Jordan, Mike, Donovan did really good coming on the pick-and-roll,” said Gobert. “When [opponents are] doing a drop coverage and keeping the guys on the shooters, usually it’s going to be a two-on-one every time. It’s really on me to set a good screen, get them open, and then it’s on them to make the right read and either find me or finish at the rim. For the most part of the game, we did great job.”Though the Frenchman has had his struggles with Memphis’ muscular Jonas Valanciunas in the past, Gobert pretty clearly outclassed him on this occasion, consistently outmaneuvering him to generate open looks at point-blank range.Screen for the ball handler up top, create some separation, dive for the hoop, and either nimbly lay it in or viciously throw it down.Lather, rinse, repeat.Gobert finished the game with seven dunks.Clarkson said the big man’s improvement as a finisher has been noticeable even in just his own time with the team since coming over in December 2019.“When he’s rolling hard to the rim, putting pressure on the on basket, it makes everybody else really good. Teams are trying a bunch of different stuff, and he’s getting put in that position where he’s making a play and has to finish at the basket. And over these past games, he’s been doing a great job of getting to the rim, finishing off one leg, pump-fake and pivoting,” Clarkson said. “In Chicago, he even hit a turnaround kind of jump shot in the middle of the paint — that was my first time seeing that! But that just shows how he’s grown in that area.”Gobert’s efficiency at the rim Friday helped the Jazz shake off a sporadic start to the second quarter, where they missed their first seven shots but still wound up going into halftime up 16.In the fourth quarter, with the Grizzlies having rallied to within single digits with about 10 minutes to go, he screen for Ingles, took the pass, and softly laid the ball in. After Memphis missed a 3 on the other end, Gobert freed Conley, rolled again, got the pass again, and threw down the jam.In the game’s stretch run, it would be a resurgent Mitchell burying timely 3s and dazzling with a stutter-step drive down the lane that kept Utah out in front, and a last-second defensive stand (and Conley improbably prevailing on a jump ball) that preserved the victory.But it was Gobert’s strong play that got them to that point.“We’ve got to keep looking for that,” said Mitchell. “He’s an excellent screener; it’s great to have him out there to be able to set us up and free us up, and then on the back end, you see him reaping the benefits of that as well.”