The Washington Wizards blew another chance at going above .500 and fell to 21-22 on the year tonight, losing to the Jazz, 104-101. This is the sixth time they've failed to achieve a winning record this year.
The Wizards led for most of the game until the Jazz took over in the third quarter. Utah hit a couple of three pointers and killed Washington's bench with its inside-outside game. Turnovers in the fourth put Utah ahead, 85-77, late in the fourth.
Wall struggled all night, especially when attempting to take over the game in the fourth quarter. He forced jumpers and seemed antsy to make plays, despite how well the offense flowed when the ball went through Bradley Beal and Nene. He was keyed in defensively and prevented Trey Burke from getting going, especially late in the game. Unfortunately, the mid-range twos that he loves to take off the dribble didn't fall and he wasn't able to pull off any miracle threes until the game was already more or less out of reach.
Washington actually played well at the end of the game, They didn't panic and executed the offense to perfection while making one last late-game push for the win. Utah made shots, some easy, some not, and countered each Washington layup or three with one of their own. A Utah miss that led to an open Beal three in transition could have made things interesting but Beal missed and Utah got the ball back.
Washington got anonther crack at tying the game late with Utah up 101-98 with about 20 seconds left. The Wizards weren't able to get a clean look and Utah collected the bricked Trevor Ariza three. Utah made one of two free throws, Washington got the ball back and Wall banked in a quick three, putting the Wizards down one, 101-102 with 3.6 seconds left and Utah with the ball. Gordon Hayward made two free throws and Washington got the ball back with 2.6 left. Wall caught the inbound pass, streaked up the court and fired off a running three from just inside halfcourt that bounced off the rim and Utah walked away with the win.
Next up is Golden State, so it may be a while until the Wizards get over .500. The worst thing about this is that, without a solid cushion, they're an injury to Wall or Nene away from potentially going on a big enough losing streak to push them out of the East's top eight. New York and Brooklyn have both looked better lately, Toronto is doing well and Detroit or Charlotte could easily go on a run. These are not good times.
- Otto Porter and Kevin Seraphin looked good in limited minutes tonight. In Seraphin's case, his shot was falling all night and he hit some fancy post shots against Enes Kanter. Porter didn't do much that showed up in the box score but his length was noticeably disruptive to Utah's passing when he was in. One line up that I'd like to see more of is the Wall-Ariza-Porter-Nene-Gortat one that saw action in the second quarter and looked like it could be absolutely smothering defensively.
- Enes Kanter was dominant on the blocks tonight. He easily banged with Seraphin, no lightweight in his own right, and Marcin Gortat and got to the basket repeatedly. He also flashed a pretty jump shot a few times.
- Beal ran the point a bit in the second quarter. He struggled to beat his man off the dribble but to his credit had a few nice passes and showed off a few crafty moves that led to contact around the basket. He looks better and better running the pick and roll with Seraphin and Gortat.
- Ariza had a great game, finishing with 23 points and five rebounds. He was very disruptive defensively and did a good job of deflecting passes and helping to fuel the Wizards' transition game. That said, it might be time to sell high. Porter is looking better and better and seems capable of doing a lot of the same things. It might be time to give him a little more playing time and move Ariza to the 2.
- Nene was really physical tonight and had a couple of emphatic dunks. He seems almost angry at the team's lack of consistency, like he wants to take it out on the rim. There wasn't a single player on the Jazz he couldn't outmuscle or beat with his quickness when he caught the ball around the basket.