There must be something about riling up the Utah Jazz that resonates with Ben Simmons.
After briefly feuding with Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell over who was more deserving of the 2017 Rookie of the Year, Simmons has now turned his attention to teammate Rudy Gobert.
'BEYOND SPECIAL': Steph Curry shatters 57-year NBA record
FANTASY MAILBAG: Concern over Giannis Antetokounmpo's knee injury
Simmons was successful in edging out Mitchell for the Rookie of the Year award, and now the Aussie star for the Philadelphia 76ers is hoping to beat out Gobert for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Gobert, Utah's enormous 216cm shot blocking machine, has been considered by many to be the frontrunner for the award, alongside Simmons.
The two play vastly different roles for their respective teams, with Gobert operating as a one man wall around the rim, and Simmons occupying a more versatile defensive role for the 76ers.
Make no mistake though, Simmons is confident his defensive efforts have eclipsed those of the Jazz big man, despite both players helping lead their teams to the top seed in the Eastern and Western conferences respectively.
“I’m one of those guys who can guard one through five (of the opposition),” Simmons said.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of respect for Rudy. I know what he’s capable of. I know he’s great down there in the paint, but he’s not guarding everybody and that’s just what it is.
“He guarded me in Utah … I had 42 (points) and apparently I’m not a scorer.
“It is what it is, but I have a lot of respect for him. At the same time, I think it’s mine this year.”
It's not the first time Simmons has taken a potshot at Gobert, having boldly declared the Frenchman was not one of the NBA's top five defenders last season.
Jazz hand Thunder another loss in NBA
The shorthanded Jazz bounced back from Monday's NBA defeat and a rough first quarter against Oklahoma City to beat the Thunder 106-96 night in Salt Lake City.
The Jazz played without three regulars — Joe Ingles (knee soreness), Royce O'Neale (rest) and Jordan Clarkson (ankle sprain) — but still had six players reach double-figure scoring and three register double-doubles to bounce back from their home loss to Washington.
Bojan Bogdanovic (23 points) and Donovan Mitchell (22) led the way as Rudy Gobert came within three blocks of a triple-double, scoring 13 points with 14 rebounds and seven swats,.
Mike Conley returned to the lineup after skipping Monday's game for load management to compile 15 points and 14 assists. Georges Niang took advantage of his first start this season with 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Jazz won for the 12th time in 15 games.
Luguentz Dort had a game-high 42 points for the struggling Thunder who are 13th in the Western Conference.
The Jazz (41-14) maintain their conference lead ahead of the Phoenix Suns (39-15), 106-86 winners over Miami Heat.
Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 13 rebounds and the Suns got 65 points from their bench in their 10th win from their last 11 starts.
Four bench players scored in double figures, including Cam Johnson (15 points), Payne (14), Torrey Craig (14) and Dario Saric (13). That offset a fairly quiet night for the Suns' All-Star backcourt of Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
Jimmy Butler had 18 points for the Heat.
Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.