It was more of the same for the Washington Wizards against the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, as they started the first quarter strong, but faded down the stretch and ultimately lost it all in the fourth to extend their losing streak to eight with an 83-76 loss.
With the Wizards still winless on the year entering Saturday night’s matchup against the Utah Jazz, Head Coach Randy Wittman opted to switch up the lineup. Jordan Crawford and Jan Vesely both started over Bradley Beal and Tervor Booker, who saw limited time throughout the game.
“Its about the team, not about individuals, number one,” Wittman said after the game. “I thought making a change, you’re just as a coach, you’re trying to think of different things to try to find some [semblance] of balance, we don’t have any balance right now.”
The balance Wittman was looking for did not turn up Saturday, despite the lineup change.
Like the last few games, the Wizards continued the trend of jumping out to quick leads taking an early 11-0 lead capped off by a Jordan Crawford three from the baseline followed by a pretty lay in by Jan Vesley. Utah looked a lot like the Wizards against the Charlotte Bobcats, missing easy buckets and failing to get rebounds. In true Wizards fashion though, the starters were pulled and the Jazz ended the first quarter on a 13-2 run to finish the quarter down 17-15.
The Jazz officially completed the first half comeback when Ennes Kanter hit a two from the left side to make it 20-19. Rookie Bradley Beal kept taking the ball to the basket though and allowed the Wizards to keep pace with the Jazz. Tervor Ariza, one of Washington’s “big two” acquired in the offseason, went off to close the second quarter, scoring eight down the stretch to give him 16 for the first half and the Wizards a 40-38 halftime lead.
Utah came out of the break with a fast start from Al Jefferson, who quickly gave the Jazz a three point lead with five points. Too bad for the Jazz, someone also woke up AJ Price for the Wizards, who at one point hit back-to-back threes and went on a 8-2 run by himself. The Wizards were keeping the Jazz at an arms length, but a flagrant foul from Price allowed Utah to tie the game up. Gordon Hayward hit all of his foul shots and then the Jazz knocked down a two to make it 55-55 and take back the momentum.
Holding leads would be a problem for the Wizards throughout the game.
“We grab early leads, we grabbed a 10-point lead today, then let it go. We have four six point leads then let them go,” Beal said after the game about losing multiple leads in the game. “Its just a matter of us keeping a lead, keeping a cushion and just executing down the stretch.”
The Wizards missed shots, failed to capitalize when they would drive the lane and committed offensive fouls at the start of the fourth. In the first seven minutes Washington scored only six points, four from new pickup Shaun Livingston. Meanwhile, Derrick Favors scored five on his own, including a huge two handed slam to make it 69-65 before the Jazz would keep scoring and go up 74-69 with just under six minutes to go.
Washington’s offense would utterly disappear in the fourth and it took the defense with it. The Jazz, led by Jefferson’s 21 points, cut through the Wizards defense, got open looks and took what the Wizards would give them, which was pretty much everything. The boos began flying at the Verizon Center as the Jazz began to make it clear the game was another Wizards and fans started to stream towards the exits with 46-seconds left.
“It was tough [to hear the fans boo and leave] because we should have had this game,” Crawford said after the game. “We lost the game ourselves and we are going to have to buckle down and finish games strong.”
Utah missed foul shots down the stretch, but continued to get offensive rebounds. The Wizards, despite being down by a large margin, continued to foul with 11 seconds to go, but the Jazz missed one of the last two free throws and hung on to win 83-76. Washington dropped to 0-8 and are now the last team in the NBA to win a game this season.