Rudy Gobert is a front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year, and Kevin Durant played him like a fiddle. 

On Saturday night, Durant single-handedly led the Golden State Warriors to a 3-0 series lead over the Utah Jazz. With 38 points, 13 rebounds and a mouthful of trash talk, the Dubs left Vivint Arena with a 102-91 margin of victory, and it was Durant’s relentless attack of Gobert that powered it.

Standing 7-2 with a 7-9 wingspan, not many players are apt to testing Gobert. Even when they do, it doesn’t end pretty. He led the NBA in total blocks and blocks per game with 214 and 2.6, respectively. Also, opponents shot 43.3 percent from the field when defended by Gobert during the regular season, and that’s dropped to 41.3 for the playoffs.

Also Read: Golden State Has Too Much Talent for Utah

Durant did most of his damage from the perimeter. He went to the free throw line just four times but was 15-of-26 overall and 4-of-8 from three. Shockingly enough, Utah’s best chance at slowing him down came when Gobert wasn’t defending him, but Golden State did everything in their power to make that happen.

Gordon Hayward was among the platoon of defenders attempting to stick Durant, but all the Warriors offense had to do was initiate a pick-and-roll with whoever Gobert’s man was. Much like his French counterpart, Durant is a physical freak of nature. And he has the skills of a guard to complement it. His ability to handle the rock and shoot from wherever are well-documented, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a guy in the NBA who can stop it. Since Utah was switching almost all their screens, Gobert had two options — sag off or closeout.

The outcomes were, well, not good. Durant’s a seven-footer with the length to match. He’s always thinking to score, and he read Gobert like a book all night long. When Gobert sagged, Durant pulled. And it didn’t matter from where. He buried a couple of long twos in addition to his threes, but putting the ball on the deck was the ultimate neutralizer.

Gobert isn’t the most mobile of bigs out on the perimeter. Below the free throw line, though, his length is bothersome to most regular human beings. Not Durant. Once Gobert made a slight attempt to defend his jumper, he got the step and blew right by him.

This was most of Golden State’s offense for the second-half. They played through Durant religiously, and it’s why the pulled out the win with a lackluster performance from Stephen Curry and minimal production from Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Utah’s season is almost over (technically), despite them playing one more game at home. Since Golden State figured out a way to exploit Gobert’s defense, I don’t see Durant and the Warriors shying away from that. Moreover, if the other guys decide to show up and put points on the board, it’s going to get gruesome very quickly.

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