By Dave Johnson
For the second time on this road trip the Washington Wizards, who won in Denver, are set to play at altitude tonight with a game against the Jazz here in Salt Lake City. The elevation will be high, but the Wizards are still very much grounded and have things in perspective after a dramatic 98-95 win over the Trail Blazers in Portland Monday.
Here is today’s Wizards Report:
LISTEN: Wizards Report January 23
In short the Wizards have been able to control their emotions through a challenging season. This is not a team that gets too high or too low. To be sure with five wins in their last seven games emotions of relief and joy have combined to form confidence among the Wizards.
Players have stated throughout the year how much they like playing with each other. It explains how the attitude remained positive, despite the lack of positive results. Now with good health, the Wizards are finding a way to close games that before slipped away. It is an unselfish, blue collar attitude that has now been supported by an ability to score.
Jordan Crawford is an example of the Wizards unselfish attitude. Against Portland Crawford was not involved for the first three quarters, but then proceeded to score 13 points in the fourth quarter. Crawford’s exclamation mark was a 31-footer at the buzzer to deliver the Wizards the win.
LISTEN: Glenn Consor on Jordan Crawford
The Wizards needed Crawford to come through on a night when Bradley Beal only scored two points. It was a choppy night on offense, but the Wizards still had 23 assists as a team. They did a nice job establishing the inside early. Eight of the Wizards first nine shot attempts on Monday were taken within four feet of the basket.
Nene, Martell Webster, and Emeka Okafor help define the Wizards blue collar approach. Nene and Webster each had season highs in points with 24. Nene had 6 assists and Webster added 5 assists. Nene had four steals. Okafor quietly and efficiently went about his business with 13 points and 13 rebounds. There was work to be done, and they just did it.
The Wizards are also taking an attitude that they should be undefeated on this road trip. It is a belief not rooted in cockiness, but the reality that losses in Los Angeles and Sacramento have been by a combined eight points. They are losses that were motivating factors in the Wizards determination to secure Monday’s game in Portland.
The Utah Jazz:
Against the Jazz to have success the Wizards will need to compete in the paint. In an 83-76 loss to the Jazz on November 17 at Verizon Center, the Wizards had their struggles on the inside. The Wizards actually had a 34-32 advantage in points-in-the-paint, but the Jazz had a 22-12 advantage in second-chance points. The game turned when the Jazz snared 17 offensive rebounds in the second half. In many ways it is amazing that the Wizards were able to hold the jazz to only 83 points, while conceding 26 offensive rebounds for the game. Al Jefferson was a big part of the Jazz victory with 17 of his 21 points in the third quarter.
Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin on the Wizards:
“These guys play hard. We talked about it before the game. We can’t look at the record and think we are going to get a win. We had to play and they showed that in the first half, they really hung in there until the middle or end of the fourth quarter and they definitely had a chance to win the ball game. Trust me they are not up to full speed right now but they are playing hard and giving themselves a chance to win.”
That was Corbin back in November and now the Wizards are healthy and winning.