The Washington Wizards were looking to get back on track, hosting the Utah Jazz in the second game of their five game home stand. The Jazz had yet to win a game in 2018, but that changed last night with a 107-104 win over the Wizards. Washington had more than it’s fair amount of chances in this one, they owned the largest lead of the game at one point, 12. Even owning an 8 point lead early in the third quarter, also regaining the lead with 2:31 left in the game. But they would fall short, poor execution on both ends of the floor cost them. The Jazz didn’t play great, but they made sure they weren’t going to beat themselves. The same could not be said for Washington and their 23 turnovers, the Jazz had just 12 turnovers. Ricky Rubio led the Utah with 21 points, including a big three pointer late in the game. John Wall didn’t have the greatest of nights from a decision stand point, but he tried to will his team to victory going off for 35 points. 14 of which came in the fourth quarter and 24 in the second half. It was the 41st game of the season, marking the halfway point for the Wizards and to this point, the same questions about this team from the start of the season still reman.
Despite the big third quarter from the Jazz where they outscored Washington 37-27, the Wizards had a one point lead with 2:31 seconds left in the game. Going up 99-98 on a corner three from Kelly Oubre, the Capital One Arena crowd was the loudest they’d been all game. The sequence leading up to Kelly’s three was all about the energy of Wall. He pressured Rubio into mishandling the ball in a half court set, dove on the floor and tipped the ball off of Ricky to regain possession. There was another display of good defense when he was posted up by Joe Johnson and found a way to win, stripping the ball from him a few plays after he committed his eighth turnover. The Rubio three happened on the next possession, Donavan Mitchell used the attention he drew from the Wizards to find a wide open Rubio in the corner who drilled the three to put the Jazz up 101-99. Wall would respond with a triple of his own, putting the back up by one. For nearly a minute, Washington didn’t score. Oubre got caught ball watching on a possession that resulted in Joe Ingles hitting a three to go up 104-102. Joe Johnson was then fouled and he hit both shots from the charity stripe, down four, Kelly scored on a tough baseline drive. Johnson was fouled again and split the pair, the Wizards got the ball back down three with 7.6 seconds left. Washington got the ball to Bradley Beal, but Mitchell fought through a screen and used every bit of that 6’10 wingspan to get a good contest on him. Resulting in Beal aborting his shot and putting the ball on the floor, but that meant he couldn’t be the first to touch it. The play resulted in a turnover and that’s how things ended, with Washington failing to get a shot off. That wasn’t the only possession the rookie foiled late as after Ingles hit that three, Mitchell got his hand on a three point attempt from Wall.
The Washington Wizards have been up and down all year, that said, they’ve had some special offensive starts to games. The first quarter against Utah was one of those, they would shoot 70% from the floor and 80% from deep. That offensive performance helped them overcome a 7-2 run by the Jazz to start the game, from there it was the Wizards at their best offensively. The ball never stopped moving, Wall was driving and dishing and Beal picked his spots and still scored 7 points. Defensively, it was the job Gortat and Morris did against the pick-and-roll that stood out. Ricky Rubio did keep the Jazz afloat with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, as shared in the preview for this game, Utah is one of the better teams in the league at generating steals. That’s what kept them hanging around.
Washington’s hot shooting cooled off a bit, but it was really the turnovers that changed the game.Utah’s special rookie picked up his third foul just a couple minutes into the second quarter. Still, Utah was able to outscore Washington despite one of their best offensive players saddled to the bench in foul trouble. Washington had seven turnovers in the period and Utah capitalized on nearly every one of them. One of the positives for the Wizards was that Beal got into a groove, scoring 9 points in the period by attacking the basket. He’s gotten much better at attacking hard closeouts and blending that with his handle to get open midrange shots after snaking off of screens. The issue in here was the turnovers, the Jazz didn’t shoot it well from the floor at all (39% from floor). Yet they still managed to close the gap on the Wizards, Washington led 50-46 at the half.
The third quarter saw Utah’s Mitchell picking up his third foul early and Rodney Hood getting ejected. Hood picked up a technical foul literally seconds before the first half ended where he felt Rubio was pushed into him on a shot attempt. With 2:21 left in the period, Rodney received his second technical and was promptly ejected. This was a big blow for the Utah because Hood (7 points) is one of the league’s best second unit players, ranking third in the league averaging 16.6 points a game. That didn’t slow the Jazz down as Epke Udoh scored 10 of his 16 points in the period, mostly off of rim running and hitting the offensive glass,Washington’s nine turnovers played a huge role in Utah shooting 59% from the floor. Most of their points came in transition, the Jazz had 6 steals during that span. This is also when Wall started to really get going, scoring 10 points by attacking the rim. The Wizards shot 70% in a quarter for the second time in the game, but got outscored in the period due to the high number of turnovers.
The Wizards don’t have a lot of time to reflect on this game with a back-to-back on the way, Washington has to play more disciplined. It’s cost them several games this season.