Late free throws push Jazz past Pelicans in NBA restart

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Basketball is back. And when it comes to the Pelicans and the Utah Jazz, it was like it never left.

These two teams played a pair of nailbiters in New Orleans and did it again Thursday night in the first game of the resumption of the NBA season.

Rudy Gobert hit a pair of free throws with 6.9 seconds left, and Brandon Ingram’s three-pointer rattled out at the buzzer as the Jazz defeated the Pelicans 106-104.

The Pelicans took the lead late in the first quarter, built it to as much as 16 points, and held the lead until Donovan Mitchell’s floater with 4:09 left keyed an 11-1 Jazz run to give Utah a 98-97 lead.

J.J. Redick’s three-pointer tied the game at 102-all with 2:03 left. Donovan Mitchell gave Utah a 104-102 lead with a pair of free throws with 48.5 seconds left, and Brandon Ingram responded with a pair of free throws with 32.1 left.

Ingram had 23 points, Redick 21 and Jrue Holiday 20 for New Orleans. Jordan Clarkson had 23 points off the bench to lead Utah.

The Pelicans shot 42.6 percent from the field and were 11-for-31 from three-point range. Both teams were sloppy, committing 20 turnovers.

We got the answer to the most asked question of the day about an hour before tipoff – Zion Williamson would indeed play despite being back with his teammates for a little more than 48 hours since leaving the bubble for a family emergency and then going back into quarantine.

Much like his debut way back in January against San Antonio, the No. 1 pick’s action came in short spurts at the start of quarters – 2:58 of the first quarter, 3:37 of the second quarter, 3:54 in the third quarter and 4:41 in the fourth quarter.

Williamson was effective in his limited minutes, scoring 13 in 15 minutes, but was not in the game at crunch time.

Perhaps there was some irony to the fact that the first basket on the first possession of the first game back was scored by Gobert. It was his positive diagnosis for COVID-19 on March 11 that led to the suspension of the season and was the first domino in a mass of postponements and cancellations across the sports world.

Williamson got the first play run in his direction and he turned it into a three-point play. He scored five of the first eight points.

He was effectively New Orleans’ only offense in the early going as Utah used a 10-0 run to bolt to a 19-8 lead. Williamson hit his first two shots, while his teammates went 1-for-8.

The Pelicans turned things around in the second half of the first quarter with defense, holding the Jazz without a field goal for the final seven minutes of the quarter, as New Orleans outscored Utah 18-4 to take a 26-23 lead.

Ingram scored seven consecutive points to close the gap to four points, and Holiday and Redick combined for the final seven points of the quarter as New Orleans closed on a 9-0 run.

New Orleans kept it going in the second quarter and carried a 60-48 lead into halftime. Ingram had 15 first-half points, Holiday 12 and Williamson added nine. The bench contributed 22 points.

Much as they struggled on offense at the outset, the Pelicans came out of the locker room sluggish, with three turnovers on their first four possessions of the third quarter. A Holiday lob and Williamson’s two-hand dunk stopped an early 5-0 Utah run.

The Jazz made it a two-possession game on several occasions in the third quarter, but three buckets by Holiday midway through the quarter and a flurry of three-pointers late in the period by Redick and Josh Hart allowed the Pelicans to go to the fourth with an 87-79 lead.

The Pelicans’ key early stretch in the bubble continues Saturday at 5 p.m. against the LA Clippers.

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder

Sales/Content/Production

Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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