It only took two playoff games for the Nuggets to question the integrity of one of the foundational pieces of Utah’s offense.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert is a prolific screener, both in terms of sheer volume and effectiveness. A review of Denver’s Game 2 loss showed that he was involved, either directly or indirectly, in half of Utah’s 20 3-pointers.
When asked about it Thursday, Nuggets point guard Monte Morris said he felt some of Gobert’s picks were illegal.
“He does a good job at setting screens,” Morris said. “I don’t think all of them are legal, so I mean, the ref can’t call all of them, but we gotta get into the ball and fight through them and not wait on what the ref’s going to do.
“It’s the playoffs, we know physical basketball,” Morris continued. “So, he’s just setting good screens and you gotta give him credit for that and he’s getting his guys open.”
Gobert helped spring loose several of Donovan Mitchell’s six 3-pointers in Utah’s blowout win over the Nuggets in Game 2, and his spacing created other shooting pockets for Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale. Gobert prides himself on freeing his shooters, which also simultaneously creates driving lanes and seams for him to roll to the basket. It’s that action that allows for so much of what the Jazz do.
“They thrive in two areas offensively,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “Drive-and-kick, they lead the NBA in drives per game, and secondly, they’re No. 2 in the NBA in pick-and-rolls ran per game, and we’ve seen that quite a bit, whether it’s Gobert setting or whoever Michael Porter (Jr.) is guarding is setting.”
Malone credited the Jazz for their screening and lauded them for their willingness to “put a body on you,” as he put it, but after watching film of Wednesday’s game, he said a lot of the 3-point collapses were failures on the Nuggets’ end.
“Way too many gameplan breakdowns where there’s confusion, we’re leaving guys wide open,” Malone said. “Donovan Mitchell hit six threes and five of those were pull-up threes in pick-and-rolls, so regardless of Gobert’s screens, we have to do a better job of being into the ball, and our big guys have to do a better job of being up at the level.”
Consider it Denver’s biggest adjustment heading into Game 3.