Kendrick Perkins Goes Off on Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert - Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost shocking to think about how the Minnesota Timberwolves brought all that hype and all that energy from a 6-0 start in the 2024 NBA Playoffs to an absolutely rabid Target Center for two of the most important playoff games in Timberwolves history and lost both.

Just like that, their hype balloon has been popped. They went from heading home up 2-0 vs the NBA champion Denver Nuggets, to tied 2-2 and now going back on the road. Not to mention neither loss was all that close.

Who’s to blame? There’s plenty of that to go around. The only person who doesn’t deserve blame from game 4 is Anthony Edwards, who went off for 44 points and nearly brought the Wolves within striking distance before the final buzzer sounded.

Kendrick Perkins goes off on Rudy Gobert for playing “sassy” in NBA Playoffs

But noted Minnesota Timberwolves superfan, Kendrick Perkins (ESPN), is taking aim at the guy who wasn’t on the floor the last time the Wolves won a playoff game, new father Rudy Gobert, even going as far as to say he plays “sassy” in the playoffs. Whoa… those are fighting words.

“Isn’t Rudy Gobert the defensive player of the year? Why is it all the time, he’s the defensive player of the year in the regular season, but a defensive liability come playoff time? I’m tired of the man playing sassy. It’s a level of physicality that he needs to play with, it’s a level of expectation that he has to uphold.

But when it comes down to how he was getting punished, not protecting the basket, not finishing around the basket. They have to figure this thing out and it starts with him, being the anchor in the middle, that defensive anchor, and then it carries on to the rest.

But if he’s not gonna show up and dominate and have a physical presence, especially going against Jokic, or when he’s matched up against Gordon, then this is definitely gonna be a long series for the Minnesota Timberwolves and they gonna find themselves going home.”

Kendrick Perkins on Rudy Gobert disappearing in the playoffs (ESPN)

I mean, it’s impossible not to notice the only real roster difference for the Wolves between games two and three, when this entire series turned. With Rudy Gobert back in Minnesota celebrating the birth of his first child, Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch had to do something different defensively, in order to give the Wolves a chance without their Defensive Player of the Year unavailable.

Related: Timberwolves Reportedly Eyeing Another Nuggets Executive if Tim Connelly Leaves

So, he turned to an in-your-face style of defense that he had been perfecting during the last twelve months, specifically to try and throw off the Nuggets. It worked. In fact, it was so effective that Denver players were throwing things onto the court in protest, by night’s end.

Minnesota Timberwolves defense fell off after Rudy Gobert returned to lineup

But when Rudy returned for game three, that aggressive style became more passive, almost by nature. The refs ultra quick whistles didn’t help the Wolves’ aggressiveness either on defense in that first game back at Target Center for round two, either.

And Perkins is right, Gobert needs to get back to the scary paint defender that the other team doesn’t want to get near. Chris Finch was able to make Rudy Gobert into a playoff asset in round one vs the Phoenix Suns, and for game one of these semifinals vs Denver.

Related: Kevin Garnett Prophesized Timberwolves Gm 3 Loss, Soft Refs Included

But game three was the first time we saw more of what the league has become used to from playoff Gobert, which has led to him sitting on the bench at the end of games while oftentimes in Utah. Would Chris Finch do the same? We may soon find out.

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