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Rudy Gobert admits Jazz must get back to being ‘dogs defensively’

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The Utah Jazz have always banked on their physicality and defense as the formula to their success. But this season, it seems like the identity they have built defensively over the past seasons is slowly crumbling. In light of their defensive struggles over the past month, Jazz center Rudy Gobert believes they should get back to being “dogs defensively” if they want to reach their ultimate goal of winning an NBA championship.

“I feel like it’s not in our DNA yet to be dogs defensively as a team,” says Gobert, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “It’s in the program’s DNA, but we don’t come out every night thinking, ‘I’m going to be physical; I’m going to make things hard for the other guy.’ We need that dog mentality.”

Offense has always been the Achilles heel of previous Jazz teams in the Rudy Gobert – Donovan Mitchell era. With a busy 2019 summer in acquiring Mike Conley and signing Bojan Bogdanovic, Utah has seen stark improvement on that end of the floor this season.

Unfortunately, as the offense got better, the defense slipped, and the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is noticing it, too.

“When we started to become very good offensively this year, our focus kind of shifted,” Gobert says. “It’s almost like we let [our defense] slide. I think it’s natural as humans when things go well, we’re not as hard on ourselves. We’re winning, so we keep doing what we’re doing.

“And that edge just slowly goes away.”

Utah was a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of offensive rating in 2017-18 and 2018-19. This year, they are showcasing a top-10 offense. However, as mentioned, the Jazz have seen a drop off defensively. Boasting a top-3 defensive rating over the last three seasons, Utah has slid to number 12 this 2019-20 season.

Utah soared to the no. 2 spot in the West with a strong six-week stretch from December to January that saw them win 19 of 22 games. Unfortunately, this past month has been absolutely brutal for them. They are 4-8 over this stretch and are now the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoff picture.