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Analysis: Rudy Gobert leads Jazz past Trail Blazers for 5th straight win

Rudy Gobert led the way and the bench came up big as the Jazz topped the Trail Blazers, 120-105.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert shoots over Portland Trail Blazers forward Tony Snell.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert shoots over Portland Trail Blazers forward Tony Snell during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021.
Amanda Loman, Associated Press

PORTLAND — The Utah Jazz beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 120-105, in the final contest of their two-game road trip. With their fifth straight win the Jazz improved to 25-9 on the season.

High notes

  • When the shooting is not great and the Jazz are playing without Donovan Mitchell, it’s really nice to have a bench that is able to score a lot of points. The Jazz got a huge boost from their bench with 21 points from Rudy Gay, 19 from Jordan Clarkson, 15 from Hassan Whiteside and four points chipped in by Trent Forrest. There are going to be times when the main rotation guys just don’t have a lot of juice throughout an 82-game season, and having a bench that is able to score the same amount of points as some starting units is incredibly valuable.
    “Our depth played a big role in today’s game. I think everybody played well, we moved the ball and played Jazz basketball.” — Hassan Whiteside
  • Rudy Gobert really asserted himself early on against the Blazers. In one of the first possessions of the game he shut down Larry Nance Jr. twice on the same play and Nance didn’t really approach Gobert the same way the rest of the night. He finished with a team-high 22 points and made a lot of really smart plays early that set the tone for the game.

  • Forrest not falling for Damian Lillard’s jab step and trying to create space was kind of surprising. Sometimes even the most experienced defenders will still flinch when Lillard tries to make a quick move, but Forrest did a good job of not being the first off the ground and staying at home. Now, Lillard finished with 32 points, as did Norman Powell, but the Blazers don’t have a lot of options for scoring these days and they didn’t do so in the most efficient way so the Jazz should still be happy with that.
  • The Jazz were making really good use of the offensive glass on Wednesday. Whiteside and Gobert combined for nine offensive boards and the Jazz scored 18 points on second-chance opportunities.
    “A couple guys knocked down shots but the bigs really came in and handled it tonight.” — Rudy Gay

Low notes

  • The Blazers came in with a clear offensive plan to target Whiteside, which worked to some degree early on. Whether or not it worked, it’s just not great to be the guy that other teams assume they can score on, especially if it’s a team that you used to play for and are familiar with like Whiteside is with the Blazers. On the other hand, Whiteside was able to punish the Blazers on the other side with some undersized matchups at the rim. I guess it kind of evens out.
  • The Jazz were playing against another team that included players that needed to be googled to know who they are and they had chances to put the game away early but allowed them to stay in by just kind of relaxing at times. There’s a consistency issue with the Jazz that is lingering.
    “I was disappointed throughout the first three quarters that we’d get a lead and then we let up a little bit. We didn’t extend it.” — Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

Flat notes

  • Joe Ingles is looking less and less like the guy you want to have on the court if you need to get a stop against someone that is fast. He’s letting guys slip by in transition, is complaining to other players when he makes a defensive mistake and is often looking just a step late on a lot of rotations. Also, he only took three shots on Wednesday starting in place of Mitchell.
  • The Jazz rank 18th in the league in free throw shooting percentage at 76.4% (not great) and they hit 20 of 32 (62.5%) on Wednesday, which is really not great.