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Here's some good news for struggling Jazz: Gobert, Gay are back

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) knocks the ball out away from Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley (5) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021, in Minneapolis.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) knocks the ball out away from Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley (5) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021, in Minneapolis. (Stacy Bengs, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — After a week of growing injury reports and disheartening losses as a coronavirus outbreak made its way through the team, the Utah Jazz were finally on the receiving end of some good news Friday.

Rudy Gobert and Rudy Gay have cleared the league's health and safety protocols. The Jazz are likely to have both players available on Sunday in Denver.

Gobert has missed the Jazz's past five games as the Jazz have struggled to a 1-4 record without him. He first missed the team's win over Denver on Jan. 5, when he started to show signs of illness. The next day an overnight PCR test came back positive, sending him to protocols.

Without him, the Jazz defense has been subpar — to put it lightly. Utah has allowed 118.6 points per game over the five games and have the second worst defensive rating in the league over that span.

It hasn't helped that the Jazz's front court has been decimated due to the COVID-19 spread. Things got so bad that Utah played without a center available during Wednesday's loss to the Cavaliers.

Gay has missed three of the team's past four games and didn't go with the team to Toronto last Friday due to fear of a possible quarantine period in Canada. He played in the Jazz's next game but then entered protocols due to a positive test.

Since the team's outbreak began, Gobert, Gay, Hassan Whiteside, Udoka Azubuike, Joe Ingles, Jared Butler have missed time in protocols, and 10-day signees Norvel Pelle and Danuel House Jr. have missed a game with a non-COVID illnesses.

And without a defensive anchor — and multiple other players — the Jazz defensive has struggled.

Toronto's Fred VanVleet scored 37 points as he recorded his first career triple-double. Indiana center Domantas Sabonis scored a career-high 42 points on 18-for-22 shooting. Detroit rookie Cade Cunningham dropped 29 points, also a career-high, as the Pistons came back from 22 points down. Cleveland's Darius Garland finished the Gobert-less run off by having his own triple-double in the Cavs win over the Jazz.

It's been a rough stretch. A stretch, though, that may soon be ending.

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