LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Rudy Gobert sank two free throws with 6.9 seconds left to cap a 14-point, 12-rebound and three-block performance, giving the Utah Jazz a 106-104 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in the first game of the NBA’s restart on Thursday night.
New Orleans, which led for most of the game and by as many as 16 points, nearly pulled out the victory as time expired when Brandon Ingram’s 3-point attempt rimmed out in a bitter end to his 23-point night.
Zion Williamson, who missed nearly two weeks of practice after leaving the team for a family medical matter on July 16, was deemed fit to start, although his playing time was limited.
He scored 13 points in just more than 15 minutes, highlighted by a couple alley-oop dunks, one on a nearly half-court lob from Lonzo Ball.
But Williamson checked out for good with 7:19 left in the fourth quarter and had to watch the tense finish from the sideline.
Jordan Clarkson scored 23 points for Utah and helped lead a second-half comeback, while Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley each added 20.
JJ Redick scored 21, including a clutch 3 to tie it at 102, while Jrue Holiday added 20 points for New Orleans.
The game was tied at 104 after Ingram’s free throws with 32 seconds left and Conley missed inside with just less than 20 seconds to go, but got his own rebound. The Jazz moved the ball to Mitchell, whose drive forced New Orleans to collapse on him before he fed Gobert for a dunk attempt that Derrick Favors could only stop with forceful foul.
Gobert, who’d featured prominently on defense with clean rejections of Williamson and Favors, calmly made the deciding foul shots.
With Williamson on the bench, New Orleans closed the first quarter with an 18-4 run, highlighted by Ingram’s dunk, finger roll and 3, to take a lead they would hold until late in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans had its biggest lead when Holiday’s fadeaway made it 60-44 late in the second quarter, and the Pelicans took a 60-48 advantage into halftime.
After Utah methodically pulled within one possession in the middle of the fourth quarter, New Orleans threatened to pull away again when Ingram hit a pull-up and E’Twaun Moore hit a 3 made possible by Jaxson Hayes’ offensive rebound.
But the Jazz weren’t finished, going on an 11-1 run, marked by Mitchell’s driving floater off the glass, to take a late three-point lead inside the final four minutes.