By Dave Johnson
Once again the Washington Wizards proved their resilience. The rally from a 21-point second half deficit was impressive, but the final result was disappointing as the Wizards closed their five-game west coast road trip with a 92-88 loss to the Utah Jazz.
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The Wizards were in position for their first winning west coast road trip since a 3-1 mark in December of 2006. Instead the Wizards return home with a 2-3 record, but also armed with the confidence that they were capable of winnings every game on this road trip,
The Wizards bid for a win in Utah unraveled early when they missed eight of their first ten shots. In the first quarter the Wizards finished 5 of 21 shooting from the field. Half of the Wizards sixteen misses were within seven-feet of the basket. The Wizards made 8 of 11 free throws and only trailed 25-19 at the end of the first quarter.
“We fought our way back after miserable execution offensively in the first half. We started 27 or 28 percent shooting. We were missing good shots through the offense. Guys tried to make it stop just by themselves. We got into a little bit of non-ball movement in the end.”
In the second quarter the Wizards had seven assists on nine made field goals, but the Jazz started to get easy baskets in transition and enjoyed an 8-2 advantage in fast break points. The Wizards also struggled on defensive rotations inside. With Al Jefferson in foul trouble, Jazz backup center Enes Kanter had 10 points at halftime and the Jazz had a 52-38 lead.
"Second half, we came out and played more like we are. We missed open shots through our ball movement and our offense; you’ve got to keep doing that. We’ll take the open shots. We can’t regress and say well, ‘I’m going to do it by myself.’ We did a little bit of that in the first half but they kept in it.”
John Wall changed the game in the fourth quarter. Down 73-58 heading into the final twelve minutes, the Wizards stunned the Jazz when they open the fourth quarter on a 14-2 run. Wall dictated the tempo of the game and end up with 6 points and 6 assists in the fourth quarter as the Wizards outscored the Jazz 30-19.
Wall finished with 14 points and 8 assists. Martell Webster was one of the Wizards leading scorers for the second consecutive game with 15 points. Oddly enough Webster was only 3 of 6 from the field, but was 6 of 6 from the free throw line.
Unlike their previous meeting in November when the Jazz won 83-76, rebounding was not the issue. The Wizards competed with the Jazz on the boards and finished even at 51 rebounds. Emeka Okafor pulled down 17 rebounds for the Wizards, but was 3 of 10 from the field shooting.
In the end the Wizards found a way to still have a chance to win despite only shooting 36 percent from the field. In the second half the Wizards outscored the Jazz 50-40 and held them 38 percent shooting from the field.
“It was a good trip; the last eight games total. The last eight games we’ve built a good, solid round of basketball and we’ve got to continue to build on that and not take any steps backwards, moving forward when we get back from the trip.”