I think Gobert defensively around the basket, in the paint, he's effective. – Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer

SALT LAKE CITY — Dwight Howard pulled a prank on his mother this summer after signing a big deal with the Atlanta Hawks.

“I wanted to see her reaction,” Howard recently told Doug Gottlieb on the sports radio host’s national show, “so I told her, I said, ‘Mom, I got this big contract, $150 million.’”

Howard’s mom responded by asking which team had signed him.

“I said, ‘Utah Jazz,’” Howard continued. “And she started crying.”

Jazz fans who didn’t exactly appreciate Utah being the butt of Howard’s joke had to love Friday night’s 95-68 outcome over the Atlanta Hawks.

They certainly loved the performance of Howard’s counterpart, Rudy Gobert, whose French mother, by the way, isn’t crying about him being in Utah.

The fourth-year Gobert outperformed 30-year-old Howard in this enticing big-man duel. The Stifle Tower finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots in the lopsided win.

Gobert was even more impressive in his postgame interview.

The Jazz center smiled when asked about his take on Howard using Utah in the joke that led to his mom, Sheryl Howard, shedding tears? "I don't know,” Gobert said. “Maybe she cried because she was happy."

If Howard’s mom was disappointed when it turned out he really wasn’t headed to Utah, she certainly wouldn’t be thrilled with Friday’s game.

Howard, the NBA player, only had four points and seven rebounds in the Hawks’ worst loss of the season. He came into this game averaging 14.8 points and 13.3 rebounds.

Howard seemed to be frustrated all night by Gobert and a Jazz defense that stymied the Hawks into the second-lowest scoring total in the NBA this season. (Dallas only scored 64 in a loss to Memphis last week.)

“I just tried to fight; don’t let him get the ball easily,” Gobert said. “Try to push him out and then when he gets it, just try to stay in between him and the basket.”

Both coaches were impressed with the impact made by Gobert, who was plus-25 on the night in 29 minutes.

“I think Gobert defensively around the basket, in the paint, he’s effective,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He alters a lot of shots. And then you’ve got to make them.”

Jazz coach Quin Snyder was impressed that Gobert recognized when the Hawks became aggressive defensively and began to roll harder in pick-and-roll situations, giving Utah an advantage.

“That’s what we want from Rudy,” Snyder said about Gobert’s overall game. “It’s not about Rudy vs. Dwight or anything like that. Dwight’s been one of the best centers in the league for a long time. Rudy’s got a long way to go, but he … concentrated tonight.”

Former Jazzman Paul Millsap also credited Gobert with negatively affecting the Hawks. Atlanta missed 57 of 83 shots (31.3 percent shooting).

“That’s probably the worst layup display we’ve had for a while. Good shot-blockers do that,” Millsap said. “He’s a good shot-blocker. You can give him some credit on that. I still give us a little credit for missing them.”

Gobert credited the rest of the Jazz, too.

“I’m pleased with the way my teammates played,” he said. “I try to push them to focus on defense. When we’re playing good defense, it’s hard to beat us. Tonight, I think, we did our best defensive game of the year.”

By the way, Howard quickly apologized to his mother for teasing her.

“I said, ‘Mom, sorry. I was just joking. I’m coming home to Atlanta,’” Howard told Gottlieb. “And then she was super happy and my family was super excited.”

It’s safe to say they weren’t as excited as the people in Utah on this night.

EMAIL: jody@desnews.com