On Saturday night, the Washington Wizards extinguished the blazing-hot Utah Jazz, 121-112.
The Jazz have been the feel-good story of the early part of this season. Heading into tonight, they held a 10-3 record, good for best in the Western Conference. This success was despite trading both of their franchise cornerstones, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, over the summer for assets in what was supposed to be a tank job.
The figurehead of this unexpected powerhouse of a Jazz team is Lauri Markkanen, the sixth-year Finnish forward. Lauri Legend, the Finnisher, or whatever affectionate nickname you want to call him, is gunning for his first career All Star appearance. In Capital One Arena, however, Markkanen posted some of his tamest stats of the season, finishing with just 17 points and five rebounds.
Markkanen was neutralized by Kristaps Porzingis and the Wizards’ stellar interior defense. Six different Wizards recorded blocks, and Washington excelled at defending without fouling; Utah shot just 11 free throws to Washington’s 20. The Jazz did not even attempt a free throw until a Wizards defensive three-second violation sent Mike Conley to the line late in the second quarter.
Three-point shooting was the catalyst for this decisive Wizards win. The team shot a scorching 44% from beyond the arc, accented by Corey Kispert and Jordan Goodwin’s collective 7-for-7 from three. This performance was a much-needed heat check for a team that was shooting a meager 31.4% from downtown prior to tonight.
Porzingis led all scorers with 31 points. Kyle Kuzma and Kispert poured in 23 and 18, respectively, while no member of the Jazz surpassed 18 points. The Wizards lit up the home crowd with several highlight plays, including a monster putback by Porzingis, a steal and transition bucket by Deni Avdija and a huge poster over Jordan Clarkson by Will Barton.
deni with the steal & slam pic.twitter.com/gHiiHa5wVG— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) November 12, 2022
The Wizards will look to defend home court once again tomorrow night at 6 p.m. against the Memphis Grizzlies. Expect a shooting clinic from Desmond Bane, but hopefully Porzingis and the Wizards can carry over their stingy interior defense from tonight to stifle Ja Morant.