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July 30, 2021

Jazz get win over Lakers, but how they stack up against defending champs still remains a mystery

SALT LAKE CITY — If Rudy Gobert needs a reference to put on his Defensive Player of the Year resume, Andre Drummond might be a good person to call.

Or maybe not.

After being held to 8 points on 3-of-12 shooting on Monday in the Utah Jazz’s 111-97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Drummond was asked how Gobert’s presence affected him. It was an obvious question considering Drummond had scored 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting two days prior against the Jazz with Gobert sitting on the bench.

“It didn’t,” Drummond said of Gobert’s presence. “I missed shots. That’s really what it boils down to.”

Drummond missed some bunnies, no doubt, but by the third quarter he had resorted to trying midrange floaters to avoid Gobert’s famously long reach. But even that didn’t work.

With 9:12 left in the quarter, Gobert swatted a weak floater back at Drummond, which caused him to stumble and fall. The play encapsulated how things went Monday for the Lakers against Gobert and Co.

That is likely why Drummond walked back his earlier comments. The tape doesn’t lie. It wasn’t just about missing shots.

“He’s a great defensive player as well, too, and he’s able to alter people’s shots, including mine,” he said. “His presence in the paint is always felt, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to take it to him each and every time.”

Gobert, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, took over in the third quarter, shutting down pretty much ever Lakers action — all as Utah’s lead ballooned to 20 heading into the final frame.

The Lakers shot just 43% in the game and mostly avoided anything close to Gobert. That all made it a pretty easy win for the Jazz.

Gobert and Mike Conley returned, and the Jazz put on an offensive clinic. Utah shot 57% from the field, 45% from 3, and had 29 assists as a team. The ball zipped around the perimeter and the Jazz broke the paint time and time again.

That led to a very balanced attack. Jordan Clarkson had 22 points and Joe Ingles finished with 21. Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 19 and Conley added 14 points and 10 assists.

“I think our spacing tonight was as good as it’s been in a long time,” Snyder said. “And as a result you saw the ball move. I don’t know how many assists we had, but it seemed like the ball was pinging around, and that’s a good formula for us.”

And it’s a formula key to beating a healthy Lakers team. The Jazz, in theory, have a team that can cause the defending champions serious problems, mostly due to their ability to hit and make 3s at a historic volume.

You saw that on Monday. The Lakers opted to stop drives to the basket early — the Jazz punished them by hitting open 3s. Los Angeles pivoted in the second half and stuck on shooters — the Jazz, instead, got to the rim.

“Whatever the defense give us, Mike, Joe, Jordan, all these guys we’re just gonna figure it out and read the defense,” Gobert said.

But that’s without Anthony Davis and LeBron James. It could be a whole different story come playoff time.

So, for now, it’s just a theory on how the teams will matchup since none of the teams’ three regular-season matchups featured fully healthy sides. Anthony Davis missed Utah’s win in February, not one of the teams’ five combined All-Stars played in LA’s win on Saturday and Davis, James and Donovan Mitchell all missed Monday’s game.

Throw in the fact that the Lakers just added Drummond and, well, no one really knows what to expect if the two teams face each other in the playoffs.

“You know what I have no idea,” Drummond said when asked how he and Davis could potentially matchup with Gobert in a series. “But I’m looking forward to being on the same court as (Davis).”

Gobert admitted there isn’t a lot to take away from Monday’s win or any of the games against the defending champs, at least not from a matchup standpoint.

“Obviously, they lost their two best players for a long period of time; luckily we didn’t,” Gobert said. “But for us, it doesn’t matter who we play, we take the challenge and we try to get better every night, and obviously try to win the game. We know that when we’re going to meet them, if we meet them in the playoffs, it’s probably gonna be a different team for sure.”

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