For the first time since 1997, the Utah Jazz hosted a game on Christmas Day and with their 117-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers to wrap up the NBA's 2018 Christmas Day slate, they certainly didn't disappoint the fans who came to the Vivint Smart Home Arena.
There were plenty of takeaways in this dominant win for the Jazz. Here are the four biggest ones:
Rudy Gobert dominates
The NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, impacted the game in the manner he knows best - with his defense. He registered a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds while recording 7 blocks, 1 short of his career-high and the Christmas Day record (among active players).
📹| Rudy had himself a NIGHT 🌌- Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 26, 2018
18p | 14r | 7b | 1s 👀 pic.twitter.com/dMBA6k4uwy
Behind his dominance, the Jazz won the rebounding battle 49-42 and outscored the Blazers 58-46 in the PITP (points in the paint) category. More importantly, they restricted Portland's offense (10th-best in the league) to just 39.3% shooting from the field.
Gobert had 7 of the team's 10 blocks and was a +10 in his 33 minutes on the floor.
For the season, Gobert has been putting up the numbers, making his case to be an All-Star. He leads the league in field goal percentage (64.9%), ranks fifth in blocks per game (2.0) and seventh in rebounds per game (12.3).
Portland's backcourt has an off night
pic.twitter.com/CjHvF25PT9- Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 26, 2018
There's no debate about the fact that the Blazers' backcourt fuels the team's offense.
The duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum average 48.4 points per game but on their Christmas Day debuts, they were off those numbers. The backcourt put together 31 points on a combined 13-of-35 (37.1%) shooting from the field.
Those weren't the only numbers that were not around their season averages.
Lillard, an 89% free-throw shooter, makes 6.4 free-throws per game but he had zero attempts in this game. Lillard and McCollum together combine for 13.6 3-point attempts per game but against the Jazz in Utah, they only attempted eight. McCollum's season average on 3-point makes - 33.7% is a career-low.
Playing around 34 minutes each, the duo had among the worst +/- numbers on the team - Lillard (-13), McCollum (-14).
Utah showcases roster depth and balance
The Jazz had seven players (three reserves) score in double figures, compared to the Blazers' five.
Despite committing 17 turnovers, the team's shooting along with their defense helped them clinch this contest. They shot 55.3% from the field and 44.8% (13-of-29) from beyond the arc while not having a single player score more than 20 points.
Their bench trio of Jae Crowder, Dante Exum, and Kyle Korver combined for 37 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists on 14-of-25 shooting (56.0%).
Joe Ingles was the team's best player, recording 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists on 66.7% shooting and finishing as a +22 in his 33 minutes on the floor. Donovan Mitchell, who sat a majority of the third quarter with foul trouble, finished with a team-high 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting.
Utah's defense beginning to find footing
The Jazz's defense, the league's best last year, slipped to 16th in the league for this November but it's back on the rise and this game was a display of just that. In December, the team has the league's second-best defense (99.8), only behind the Indiana Pacers.
Yes, they have gone 7-6 in their 12 games in December but their six wins have come by an average margin of 21.7 points and in four of these seven wins have come by restricting their opponents to under 100 points.
If their offense (ranked 21st) can find it's footing, could this month be the start of another huge run for the team, similar to what they had last year (29-6)?