Wizards vs. Jazz final score: Comeback effort falls short in 92-88 loss

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards surprised everyone by rallying from a 22-point deficit, but in the end, the hole was too big. Washington fell to the Jazz, 92-88.

It looked like the Washington Wizards would roll over in Salt Lake City at the end of a long road trip again. The Wizards got victimized by half a dozen fast breaks in the second quarter, then saw their offensive well run dry in the third quarter. This was a 22-point game at one point. Instead, the Wizards teased us with a pretty shocking comeback to cut the lead to two, then rolled over again at the end, losing, 92-88.

The Wizards' comeback was strange. John Wall seemed to get it together, and the Wizards' defense certainly stepped up. This is a tempo game so much, and the Wizards controlled tempo during the stretch. It's funny how a couple stops can really change momentum. That seems vague, but I honestly can't explain how this became a game again any better. Credit the Wizards for fighting, of course.

But in the end, it was too little, too late. The Jazz finally strung together a few nice possessions, and the Wizards couldn't execute in the half court well enough to make up the gap. The Jazz got some separation when Nene committed an awful turnover on a post-up and Martell Webster committed an even sillier clear-path foul on Gordon Hayward. If the Wizards scored, they would have cut Utah's lead to three points with three and a half minutes left. Instead, Hayward nailed both free throws, Al Jefferson got fouled and hit a free throw, and the lead was back to eight.

The Wizards did make one final run. Beal forced a turnover and ran out for a dunk to cut the lead to four, and then the Wizards forced a stop with a minute left. Wall tried to rush a fast break, understandably, but he ended up losing the ball. Nene recovered, luckily, and this was a perfect time to pull the ball out and run a set. Instead, Webster got the ball, dribbled to the corner and launched a 20-foot fadeaway while falling out of bounds over two defenders. Shocker: it missed.

That pretty much was that.

This was probably the game to go small, spread the floor and use Wall's speed to counteract Utah's size. Instead, Randy Wittman played a bigger lineup late, and it cost them. You can understand Wittman sticking with the lineup that got the team back in the game, but replacing Trevor Booker with Emeka Okafor was probably a mistake. The better move was to put Beal back in, go small and spread the floor. Instead, Wittman played right into the Jazz's style and ended up hurting the comeback effort.

That's nitpicking, though. Ultimately, this game was lost in the first two and a half quarters. On some level, this was about fatigue, but a team this bad can't roll over like this, even at the end of a long road trip. The Wizards did an absolutely horrible job of getting back on defense, and that just can't happen. This is an athletic team that's supposed to have young legs. There's no reason that they kept being the one giving up fast breaks in the second and third quarters.

The worst thing the Wizards can do is think that they played well by "only" losing by four. A team that's serious about getting better dwells on the bad. The Wizards had much more bad than good tonight, and that has to be fixed. Forget moral victories.

Other notes:

  • I'm not going to lose too much sleep over Wall playing so much time with Jordan Crawford, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin in the second quarter. Clearly, this is a silly lineup to play Wall with consistently, since nobody can make a perimeter shot. But this seems like a problem that's only resulting because of Wall's minutes limit. Once he returns to the starting lineup, he won't have to play as much with so many non-shooters.
  • I can't explain why that lineup worked at the end of the third quarter. Just can't do it. I guess Wall realized what he did wrong in the second quarter and adjusted? Going to need to watch the tape more to figure it out.
  • Another thing I can't explain: the lack of minutes together for Wall and Beal. I can understand not starting Wall, and I can understand sticking with Crawford for an extended spell, but Wall/Beal is an on-court relationship that the Wizards need to cultivate.
  • Wasn't a fan of the Wizards' gameplan to begin this one. Washington followed its normal pattern of forcing the ball inside to Nene and establishing their motion, but this might have been one game where it would have been better to spread the floor and just run pick and roll. The Jazz have slow big men that struggle to help their primary defender in containing the ball-handler, yet the Wizards did nothing to try to exploit that weakness.
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