JJ Redick blasts Timberwolves’ Rudy Gobert critics after struggles vs. Nikola Jokic

Tony Nguyen | Denver Nuggets
May 16, 2024

Basketball analyst and former player JJ Redick was speaking on his show “The Old Man & The Three” with Richard Jefferson where the topic of conversation was on the dominating performance of Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic Tuesday night. However, it was focused on the defensive performance on Minnesota Timberwolves big-man Rudy Gobert as there have been people blaming him for Jokic’s outing and Minnesota losing Game 5, 112-97.

There was more criticism put on Gobert since he won Defensive Player of the Year this past season and that since he’s the primary defender of Jokic, he was disappointing as the MVP scored 40 points, recorded 13 assists, and collected seven rebounds. Redick would call out the naysayers of Gobert and say that focusing on one performance is asinine.

“I want to make a couple points on Rudy Gobert because again, I’m not going to do the full discourse and explanation right now because no matter how many times I’ve f—ing done it over the last three or four years,” Redick said. “You know people want to point to these singular games where it’s like oh that’s your Defensive Player of the Year like okay. So Jokic last night, he was 8 for 9 with Gobert as the primary defender. Going into that game last night he was 11 for 28 with Gobert as the primary defender including 4 for 13 in Game Four.”

Redick says Jokic is the “best player in the world”

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball as Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) guards in the first quarter during game five of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Gobert won his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award this season after beating out the other finalists in the Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo and San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama. However, he was no match for Jokic as Redick boiled it down to that the three-time MVP player is the “best player in the world.”

“Jokic is, I think, we can all agree, if he’s not the best player in the world he’s certainly one of the two or three best players in the world. I’m not going to rank players right now,” Redick said. “I think Jokic is the best player in the world and I’ve said that consistently for the last year. All right, he’s the best player in the world. He’s going to f—ing score against anybody. Also, did you see the moves and the shots he was making at times? By the way Rudy Gobert’s like 7’3. At some point you’re like I don’t know, maybe it’s just the offensive player is that good.”

Redick says Nuggets were trying to take away Gobert from the rim

Redick would go into specifics about how Gobert should not be the sole reason why the Timberwolves lost that game, but did provide an explanation in how the Nuggets game plan was to get the French-born player away from the rim. He would say that the criticism is unwarranted and that “it’s basketball strategy 101.”

“And the whole point about him getting played off the floor,” Redick said. “Look, again, I said this after game two when we started talking about the weekend games last week on The Old Man and The Three, like Denver had to figure out a way to get Gobert away from the basket, that’s the challenge against the Minnesota Timberwolves, it was the challenge against the Utah Jazz. it’s not an indictment on Rudy Gobert. It’s f***ing basketball. You have a guy like, 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. That’s called basketball, it’s basketball strategy 101 like come on.”

Gobert says Timberwolves were “demoralized”

Gobert would finish the game on a solid note with 18 points and 11 rebounds to go along with two blocks, but it wasn’t enough from everybody else on the Timberwolves to win this game. It is Minnesota’s third straight loss after going up 2-0 on the series and winning the first two games in Denver as Gobert talks about how the last 24 minutes displayed the team being “demoralized” according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

“The second half, we got a little too demoralized and we can’t have that,” Gobert said. “I think we have to be mentally tough, individually and collectively, to be able to keep playing our game and not let anything that happened in the game affect the way we play and the way we … affect our confidence and the way we compete.”

The 31-year old center would give credit where credit is due as he praised Jokic for his performance which was a monstrous effort to lead the Nuggets to a 3-2 series lead trying to win back to back championships. Gobert would say that he could not believe some of the shots that went in because he thought he blocked it.

“He was in the zone,” Gobert said. “I mean, a couple of shots that I think I actually blocked and the ball went in. It was just incredible in that quarter. He put the team on his back and he was making everything.”

Anthony Edwards, Chris Finch baffled by Jokic’s performance

It was not just Gobert that could not believe the performance Jokic had as even Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards gave props to the Serbian-born star. While Edwards has been one of the shining stars of the playoffs so far, he arguably had his worst game of the postseason scoring 18 points, though he did record nine assists and collected four rebounds.

“I just laugh. That’s all I can do,” Edwards said. “I can’t be mad, because he’s good, man. I think I said that after Game 1 when we won, and Game 2. He’s the MVP. He’s the best player in the NBA. He showed it the last three games, three games in a row.”

While he had another phenomenal season, Jokic has been stellar in the past three games all leading to victories as he is averaging 33.0 points, 9.7 assists and 9.3 rebounds while hitting 62 percent of his shots. Minnesota head coach Chris Finch spoke after the game about trying to at least maintain him, but he called his putting a “best-player-in-the-world performance.”

“He had an MVP, best-player-in-the-world performance,” Finch said. “We tried to do a bit of everything on him. He had it all going. We didn’t have answers for him and honestly, we haven’t had a great one the last couple of games.”

The Timberwolves are now 3-2 on the series after being up 2-0 beforehand as they look to head back home and tie the series up. Game 6 will take place Thursday night as Minnesota looks to save their season, but now they will have to win two straight and head back to the Western Conference Finals, which would be their first appearance since the 2003-2004 season.