Rudy Gobert picked up his first foul one second into the game. He picked up his second foul little more than two minutes later, and was ejected from the game after slapping a water cup that sat on the scorers table. In what would seem like a major set back for the team that early in the game turned into a galvanizing moment for the inconsistent Jazz, and they ran away with a victory over the Houston Rockets.
Derrick Favors more than filled in for the absent Gobert, finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and a +22 plus/minus as the Jazz won their fourth game in five outings.
Beyond Gobert’s early exit, Donovan Mitchell struggled with foul trouble and shooting the ball, finishing the game with only six points on 3-9 shooting, which would usually but a disastrous combination for the Jazz, but it was hardly noticeable in the 27 point blowout on national television.
The Jazz got a full team performance to make up for the down play from their stars, including surprising minutes from Dante Exum and Ekpe Udoh who have been relegated to non rotation players early in the season. Exum finished with a team leading +24 to go with 15 points and five assists, after losing his back up point guard minutes to a now healthy Raul Neto.
Exum signed a three year contract extension this summer after an impressive playoff performance against the Rockets, and appeared to once again find that groove Thursday night. Udoh provided tough defense both switching onto smaller ball handlers and protecting the rim. Udoh scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench.
The locker room after the game was jovial, both laughing about Gobert’s peculiar ejection, and celebrating their recent string of high level play.
The Jazz will get back in action when they play the Spurs, Sunday in San Antonio.
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