Utah's Gobert wins third Defensive Player of the Year award

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Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert warms up before Game 1 of the team's second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Rudy Gobert saved Utah's opening game of the second round with a blocked shot, the kind of play that's earned him recognition as the NBA's best defender.

It would have been ever better if Mark Eaton had seen it.

The former Jazz center died last month at 64 and Gobert was thinking about his predecessor Wednesday after breaking a tie with him for most Defensive Player of the Year awards in franchise history by winning it for a third time.

“I thought about it last night because I knew that I probably would have got a text after the game,” Gobert said.

“I’m sure he’s very proud and I’m going to try to keep making him proud and keep honoring his legacy."

Gobert had the most total blocked shots and defensive rebounds in the league this season and became the fourth player to win the award at least three times after leading the Jazz to the best record in the league.

A night after a game-sealing blocked shot in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, Gobert received 84 first-place votes and 464 points from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.

Philadelphia's Ben Simmons was second with 15 first-place votes and 287 votes, while Draymond Green of Golden State was third with 76 points.