After leaving Game 1 of the NBA Postseason first-round series between the Clippers and Jazz with a knee sprain, Utah center Rudy Gobert might be done for the series.
Gobert, one of the Jazz’s two best players and a front-runner for NBA Defensive Player of the Year, crumpled to the ground holding his knee only moments into Game 1 on Saturday.
Rudy Gobert appeared to injure his knee on the first play of tonight's game. Still awaiting official word. pic.twitter.com/BTphHfwgCY
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 16, 2017
After the injury, Jazz fans immediately assumed the worst: that Gobert had structural damage to his knee and his team was doomed. But we quickly learned that the center had only a sprain in his knee, meaning a return during the playoffs was not out of question. Even better, the Jazz won Game 1 thanks to a buzzer beater from “Iso Joe” Johnson.
But Sunday’s news that Gobert may not be back imminently certainly dims Utah’s hopes of a (minor) first-round upset. One of the series’ biggest storylines was the clash between dominant centers—Gobert for the Jazz and DeAndre Jordan for the Clippers. If Gobert’s absence would certainly tilt the front-court balance toward the Clippers.
If the frenchman indeed fails to return for this season, it will be a disappointing end to his breakout season. In 2016-17, Gobert averaged career highs in points per game (14), rebounds per game (12.8, fourth in the NBA), blocks per game (2.6, best in the NBA) and field-goal percentage (66.1 percent, second in the NBA). He’ll likely land on an all-NBA team for the first time.
Hopefully Gobert can make it back before the end of the series. He’s a fun player to watch, and Clippers-Jazz has a chance to be one of the most dramatic matchups of the first round. Besides, the NBA Postseason is supposed to be for the league’s best players, and Gobert is definitely one of the league’s best players.