OKC Thunder – Utah Jazz Series: How big man battle can decide series

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 21: Carmelo Anthony
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 21: Carmelo Anthony /
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The Tower and the Kiwi:

Rudy Gobert is going to win Defensive Player of the Year, and deservingly so. The Jazz have a Defensive Rating of 91.6 when he’s on the court, which is frankly absurd. For reference, the best defense in the league this year, the Boston Celtics, had a Rating of 101.5. Hence, when Gobert was off the court, the Jazz’s Defensive Rating fell to 102.4. That’s a change comparable to what the Thunder see with Andre Roberson.

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Gobert is the best rim protector in the game, bar none, and he will be standing under that rim waiting for anyone Adams sets a screen for. Adams’s short mid-range push shot can make a huge difference in pulling Gobert just a foot or two away from the basket. Consequently, giving Russ all the space he needs to attack.

His defense aside, not that it can ever be put aside, Gobert is one of the elite screen-setters in the NBA, consistently giving his ball-handlers a head-start in the pick-and-roll or creating a 2-on-1 situation. Luckily, the Thunder have the antidote for that particular problem, too: Steven Adams.

Magical Kiwi:

Adams is a tremendous athlete and an elite pick-and-roll defender. He’s able to contain the ball-handler while simultaneously taking away passing lanes to the roller in a way few centers have ever been able to do. Thanks to his background in rugby, Adams has the ability to get his hand all the way to the floor to take away pocket passes, to the point that there have been several times this season that this unusual ability has surprised referees and drawn an incorrect kickball call.

Unfortunately, googling any combination of “Adams,” “kick,” and “ball” only brings up videos I don’t want to watch, so this is the best I could do:

Ignore all the beautiful activity after the steal. Okay, watch it, but then focus on the steal. That pass was going to tickle Adams’s shoe-tops, and he gets a mitt down there to get it. Can you do that as quickly? Go ahead, stand up and try it. You can probably do it, but it’s hard right? He’s seven-feet tall!

Raymond Felton had been totally wiped out on the screen. It was a 2-on-1 fast break in the half-court, with Adams as the only defender, and he stole the ball. You know what made that awesome screen moot? That’s the power that Adams’s defense can have. Gobert is an incredibly valuable screen-setter, but each time Adams makes a play like that, that skill becomes less valuable.


In conclusion, Russ will do Russ things, and Donovan Mitchell will do some things of his own. But in this series, featuring a DPoY vs a center who is his perfect foil, a pair of Power Forward duos with conflicting styles, and an All-Star Small Forward vs. an elite role player, the front court will decide who comes out on top.

Next: The Kiwi Bible - An ultimate Guide to Steven Adams

For a dive into how Russell Westbrook’s defensive rebounds can control pace in the series check out Gideon Lim’s film room piece here.  And, check in throughout the day as the TI scribes serve up multiple articles to get Thunder Nation ready for the tip. As always, keep the most Thunderous of Intentions, and Thunder all the way Up.