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Rudy Gobert continues to shut down opponents, to the surprise of no one

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, wearing yellow, guards Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, wearing black
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert guards Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum (3) during an NBA game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

It’s not like Rudy Gobert’s defense is going to shock anyone.

At this point, everyone in the NBA knows what to expect from the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. But that doesn’t mean they know how to neutralize him, keep him from altering possessions, or slow him down.

Time after time, opposing coaches have marveled at Gobert’s ability, not just to block shots, but to completely force teams into different actions, purely based on his presence.

On Nov. 11, when the Indiana Pacers were in town, head coach Rick Carlisle went as far as saying that Gobert deserves to be discussed as one of the best defenders ever.

“They’ve got one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the game,” Carlisle said, matter-of-factly. “They’re the best that there is right now at patrolling the lane. People need to start to realize that there is amazing artistry in that kind of defensive ability.”

On Monday, before the Jazz’s game against the Trail Blazers, Portland head coach Chauncey Billups said that the way Gobert impacts the game is similar to Hall of Famer Ben Wallace, who won four Defensive Player of the Year awards during his career.

“It’s incredible how he manages that paint down there,” Billups said. “He’s a dominant defender down there and even the shots that he doesn’t block, he has an impact on them. Guys won’t even shoot over him. They drive or they kick it. He’s great at what he does.”

As if prophetically, it wasn’t long after Billups said those words that Gobert was on the court doing just as expected.

With just under seven minutes on the clock in the first quarter of the Jazz’s 129-107 win over the Blazers, Gobert was switched onto C.J. McCollum and deterred the guard over and over on his attempts to get to the rim. Eventually McCollum abandoned ship and passed the ball off. But Gobert recovered effortlessly onto Robert Covington, forcing him to send a shot over Gobert’s outstretched arms. The ball was sent way too high and bounced off the top of the backboard.

Adding salt in the wound, Gobert also scored 21 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and dished out three assists.

There’s no doubt going to be more coaches who come to Vivint and talk about the defensive problems that Gobert poses, and even with all the knowledge and all the film and scouting that other teams do to try to find ways around Gobert, he’s still going to be the same 7-foot-1 force.

He’s not surprising anyone. He’s just shutting them down.