Despite injury, Rudy Gobert determined to become the NBA’s most fearsome shot-blocker: ‘It’s pride’

SALT LAKE CITY — With 9.8 seconds remaining in regulation, the Utah Jazz were knotted 94-94 with the Portland Trail Blazers at Vivint Arena.

Evan Turner inbounded the ball to All-Star guard Damian Lillard, who blew past defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha in a one-on-one situation with a quick dribble drive.

As Lillard floated a 17-footer in the air for a potential game-winner, a large, 7-foot-1 Frenchman skied through the air gracefully like a bird defending its nest. Denied.

Rudy Gobert’s game-saving play would eventually help propel Utah to a 112-103 overtime victory on Nov. 1.

For Gobert, there wasn’t much to celebrate after the rejection as he strolled calmly to the bench. Those around the league weren’t shocked, either.

“I got past my guy and tried to get a floater up there, but (Rudy) Gobert does what he does best,” Lillard said. “He’s a shot blocker and he got to it, and it’s tough to win an overtime game on the road. That’s just tough.”

Throughout his five-year career, the 25-year-old center has built a reputation as one of the league’s most fearsome defenders.

To no surprise, through 12 games Gobert is the NBA’s leading shot blocker, averaging 2.5 blocks per game. Sure, offense is cool, as he gets 13.9 points and 10.5 boards per night, but the defensive end is his bread and butter.

“It’s pride. You don’t want your opponent to score,” Gobert explained. “You don’t want your guy to score and once you get better at it, you get used to it, it becomes a mindset. You just try to do it every game.”

In a stroke of unforeseen bad luck, the big man will now miss at least four weeks with a right tibia contusion after colliding…

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