Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder is trying to keep the Rudy Gobert love-fest under control. The 7-foot-1 Frenchman was already a fan favorite as a shot-swatting reserve, but the attention has increased since the organization traded away Enes Kanter and inserted Gobert into the starting lineup.
Gobert sparked another victory over a top team in his second consecutive start and the Jazz beat San Antonio 90-81 on Monday night, extending the Spurs’ losing streak to three since returning from the All-Star hiatus.
"It’s trying to build an identity," Snyder said. "Guys are working. That’s really what it all comes down to. It’s nothing special.
"Rudy’s been very good and (he) has an impact. It’s more than Rudy. I’m taking nothing away from Rudy’s presence. And his impact is significant. … (But) everybody’s trying to do their part. When you get that, it’s no one player."
The younger Jazz were clearly the more athletic team out the gate — turning over the Spurs and scoring in transition. They used three consecutive fast-break buckets, including an alley-oop to Gobert, to take a 13-8 lead. The advantage extended to 11 points after an 11-4 run highlighted by another Gobert alley-oop and three buckets from Trey Burke.
Gobert set the defensive tone from the outset with two first-quarter blocks of Tim Duncan. He finished with seven points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and two steals as the Jazz have held their last five opponents under 100 points.
"He’s a long drink of water. He changes shots, blocks shots he does a good job," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
The Spurs committed a season-high 22 turnovers, leading to 17 Utah points.
"Communication was way better and is still getting better," Gobert said. "When we communicate, we play great. And we make a lot of hustle plays and great defensive plays, transition baskets and we get going.
"(Duncan) is a great player and I know he’s very smart. I knew he was going to try to make me foul and lose my balance."
Trey Burke scored 23 points and was outstanding with his midrange game for the second consecutive game. Forward Gordon Hayward scored 18 despite a 4-for-15 shooting night, while Derrick Favors added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz, who beat Portland in their last outing.
Duncan had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Boris Diaw chipped in 13 points and Cory Joseph had 10. The Spurs were unable to put together any type of run the entire game.
"I thought we took a lot of contested shots that we didn’t need to take," Popovich said. "I don’t think we played very smart in that regard but I thought for the whole 48 they were aggressive and they were focused. It was real impressive."