The two All-Stars came together on multiple occasions during Monday’s game in Dallas. It made sense that emotions ran high during the contest, which might have been a playoff preview given the Jazz are the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, and the Mavs follow close behind in the No. 5 spot. However, Gobert thinks the tough guy display is an act.
Mavs governor Mark Cuban said Doncic was “humbled” early in the season. If Luka isn’t careful, Gobert might feel inclined to humble him in a different fashion, though Doncic put the Jazz in their place on Monday.
Rudy Gobert and Luka Doncic had a pair of confrontations on Monday
Monday’s showdown between the Jazz and Mavericks certainly had the intensity of a playoff game. That’s always going to be the case when two stars butt heads.
Gobert and Doncic had a pair of high-profile encounters. The first came when at the end of the half, when Luka found himself isolated against the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Doncic drove on Gobert and tried to initiate contact with the hopes of drawing a whistle. His floater came up short, and Gobert playfully tossed the ball to him as the buzzer sounded.
It seemed like a harmless gesture, but Luka took exception. He tried throwing the ball back in the direction of the Jazz center and immediately started barking thereafter. Referees assessed Doncic a technical foul.
That wasn’t the end of the run-ins.
With the surging Mavericks up big at the end of the third quarter, Gobert and Doncic again got tangled up, with Rudy appearing to trip Luka. Again, the All-NBA guard expressed frustration, lurching back to his feet before calling for Gobert to get tossed. Meanwhile, the Frenchman shrugged in disbelief, indicating that Doncic had again exaggerated the incident.
Dallas withstood a late-game run and held on for a 111-103 victory. But Gobert still had words for Doncic and the Mavs after the game.
Gobert ripped Doncic and the Mavericks
Rudy Gobert isn’t impressed by Luka Doncic’s tough-guy act. He’s equally impervious to Mavericks players talking smack from the bench. Well, maybe not totally impervious.
Gobert commented on his run-ins with Doncic during his postgame press conference. He said (h/t the Salt Lake Tribune) the Mavericks guard tried to “bait” him all game and that he refused to react with an explicit show of force.
“[Doncic] whispered something in my ear and tried to bait me into getting mad. But I knew what he was trying to do. I just tried to run back on offense, but he got in my way. It’s also part of the game.”–Rudy Gobert on Luka Doncic, via the Salt Lake Tribune
Doncic, who paced the Mavs with yet another dominant first quarter, admitted playing up the confrontations to the nth degree. He initially believed Gobert’s trip was the “worst thing ever,” only to laugh with teammates on the bench after seeing replays.
Apparently, the machismo extended to Dallas’ bench. Gobert explained that he heard all sorts of chatter coming from other Mavericks players, though he tried not to take much stock in any of it.
“There’s a lot of things being said that wouldn’t be said outside a basketball court. A lot of things I don’t say. I’m not perfect, but I don’t say things to guys that I wouldn’t tell them to their face outside the locker room. It’s a lot of talk.”–Rudy Gobert, via the Salt Lake Tribune
Although Gobert thinks the trash talk is mostly nonsense, he did call on referees to do a better job of holding players accountable, especially those on the bench. Regardless, the Mavs had every reason to run their mouths after Tuesday’s win.
Luka got the last laugh in possible playoff preview
While Luka Doncic probably deserves Rudy Gobert’s criticisms and might do well not to embellish next time he plays the Jazz, Monday night belonged to him.
Doncic has been on a tear lately, and his run of good form continued against the Jazz. He scored 34 points on 12-of-23 shooting, also finishing with 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and a block. The Slovenian sensation paced Dallas to a fifth straight win, with the Mavs now just 0.5 games back of Utah for the No. 4 seed.
As Donovan Mitchell said afterward, it felt like a playoff matchup. The Jazz and Mavericks could certainly meet again in April.
Both teams are still within striking distance of the two teams above them in the West. Utah is three games behind the No. 2-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, while Dallas is 3.5 games back. That deficit shrinks by a half-game for both teams when pitted against the No. 3-seeded Golden State Warriors.
Still, the Jazz and Mavs likely square off in the first round of the playoffs. If that is indeed the case, then Gobert and Doncic figure to headline a chippy and potentially heated series.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.