Jazz center Rudy Gobert, whose positive COVID-19 test led to NBA shutdown, hits winning free throws to beat Pelicans as season resumes

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert scored the NBA’s first two points in its restart and the final, game-winning two points in a 106-104 victory over New Orleans on Thursday.

It was quite the bookend moment of theatrical symmetry for Gobert, who was the first NBA player known to test positive for COVID-19 in March, resulting in the NBA suspending and setting off a cavalcade of several other leagues and conferences either postponing or canceling their seasons.

“Life works in mysterious ways,” Gobert said.

Back in March, Gobert had a cavalier attitude about the virus that continues to have a serious impact on global health, he and joked about the virus, touching reporters’ microphones and digital recorders at a press conference shortly before he tested positive. He also ran afoul of teammate Donovan Mitchell, who also tested positive for COVID-19 in March.

A major story line through the spring was whether Mitchell and Gobert could salvage their relationship, and there were doubts. However, as teams gathered to resume the season and began practicing, the two players who are pivotal to Utah’s postseason success re-established their bond.

“People don’t have much to talk about for months. That was the topic of the moment,” Gobert told reporters last week. “That’s not a bad thing. It’s time to put it behind. I get asked about it everyday. I can understand. But I hope they have some more interesting topics.”

Rudy Gobert and the Jazz restarted the NBA season on the right foot with a 106-104 win over the Pelicans.

After a scrimmage last week, Mitchell walked down a hallway and joked with Gobert.

In Thursday’s come-from-behind victory, Gobert had 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, and Mitchell had 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Mitchell set up Gobert with a pass, leading to the foul and two free throws.

“Hopefully that kind of stops y’all from talking about it,” Mitchell said.

If those two can play like that — and get a rejuvenated Mike Conley, who had 20 points — the Jazz can be a team that catches the Denver Nuggets for third place in the Western Conference and surprises teams in the playoffs.

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

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