Poeltl seeks to emulate Gobert’s dominant presence in paint

Spurs center Jakob Poeltl views Utah’s Rudy Gobert as a man in total control of his environment.

That environment is the paint.

“He’s sort of that lone man in there, taking care of the ball handler and the rollout at the same time,” Poeltl said of Gobert’s ability to wreck an opponent’s pick-and-roll. “That’s something I’ve got to deal with a lot of games as well, and he’s probably one of the best in the league at it.”

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Facing Gobert two games in a row provided Poeltl a chance to learn from the master up close. Leading the NBA or near the top of nearly every defensive metric, the 7-foot-1 Gobert is the favorite to win defensive player of the year this season, an award he also earned in 2018 and 2019.

It’s not just plays down low that Gobert thwarts. He also can single-handledly disrupt the fast break.

“You see his impact in so many different ways, transition defense maybe being the biggest one,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Him being able to get back on defense just solidifies our defense to a whole other level.”

Gobert, who entered Wednesday night’s game against the Spurs leading the league in defensive win shares (4.7) and defensive rating (100.5) and ranking second in rebounds (13.4) and blocks (2.8) per outing, also excels at defending in space.

“It’s not often you see a…

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Tom Orsborn

Tom Orsborn

San Antonio Express-News

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Sportswriter for 35 years at San Antonio Express-News, covering everything from preps to the Cowboys to the Spurs. Proud San Antonio College alum.

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