JJ Redick Defends Rudy Gobert Amid Fan Backlash After Nikola Jokic's Historic Night

Gobert's defensive prowess faces intense scrutiny in playoffs.

by Faizan Chaudhary
JJ Redick Defends Rudy Gobert Amid Fan Backlash After Nikola Jokic's Historic Night
© Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves took on the defending champion Denver Nuggets, headlined by the back-to-back reigning 2023-24 NBA MVP in Nikola Jokic, and in a pivotal Game 5, as much as they are Game, the Timberwolves fell short 112-97.

At the forefront, though, the defeat only seemed to fuel criticism over Rudy Gobert, the reigning 2023-24 Defensive Player of the Year, for what is perceived to be failure in stopping Jokic. Now, former Clippers guard JJ Redick is coming to the defense of Gobert.

Gobert, fresh off his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award, was thought by many to be a legitimate challenge for Jokic. However, the series has not gone as thought by many, as Jokic has posted some big games against the league's top defense.

Redick touched on that criticism in an episode of his podcast, "The Old Man & The Three." "Denver really had to find a way to get Gobert out of the paint," Redick said. "That's the challenge with the Minnesota Timberwolves and that's the challenge with the Utah Jazz.

That's not anything bad to say about Rudy Gobert. It's basketball. Name a skill set; this guy is elite at doing this. He's the best in the world at doing this. Let's try to take that away."

Nuggets' Tactical Shift

Redick stated that when the series got to Denver, after the first two home losses of the series, it became pretty clear the defending champions were going to have to figure out something to do with Gobert around the rim.

That's exactly what the Nuggets did, totally changing their approach on the offensive side of the ball just to try and scheme Gobert out of the paint. That said, it did kind of leave the Timberwolves scratching their heads.

Thus, the paint was too often left wide open and Jokic could use it to his advantage, making those difficult shots over Gobert. After the Game 5 loss, Gobert made his feelings known about the performance of the team, especially in the second half.

"We got a little too demoralized and we can't have that," Gobert told The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski. "We have to be mentally tough, individually and collectively, to keep playing our game. We can't let what happens in the game affect our confidence and the way we compete." Nikola Jokic dominated the game, scoring 40 while shooting 15-for-22, going 2-for-3 from deep, adding 13 assists and seven rebounds.

He has just shown for the third time why he is an MVP-caliber player, even against such elite defenders as Gobert. On the flip side, the Timberwolves shot just 48.7% from the field and 30.8% from three. Star duos Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns combined for 41 points but had a poor shooting night, going 15-of-34 from the field and 3-of-10 from distance.

Now is the opportunity for Gobert and the Timberwolves to rebound from those lows on their home court in Game 6. With the series at 3-2, Minnesota will look to tie things up and force a deciding Game 7.

Rudy Gobert Nikola Jokic