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Bench sparks Wizards past Jazz

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- The nameplate for Drew Gooden's locker arrived on Tuesday. The veteran forward's offense showed for the first time as a member of the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. Perhaps just in time with his 10-day contract close to expiring.

Along with fellow 30-somethings in guard Andre Miller and forward Al Harrington, Washington's bench has arrived as well.

None of three played for the Wizards two weeks ago. Against the Utah Jazz, the trio played key roles in the Washington Wizards' 104-91 victory.

Forward Trevor Ariza scored 26 points and guard Bradley Beal had 22 as the Wizards (32-29) won for the seventh time in eight games. They didn't put the game away until midway through the final quarter. When they did, Gooden, 32, the soon-to-be 38 year-old Miller and the 34-year-old Harrington led the way.

"We had the AARP group in there," Wizards coach Randy Wittman cracked. "(They were) doing pretty good."

The Wizards led by 15 points in the first half and 79-64 late in the third quarter before the crowd of 13,911. An energy lull followed, as did a 16-6 Utah run. Guard Diante Garrett's jumper made the score 85-80 with 7:48 remaining, but the Jazz (21-40) would get no closer.

Gooden, who had not played since the Milwaukee Bucks amnestied his contract in July, signed with Washington on Feb. 26. The fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft had yet to score in two games with the Wizards entering Wednesday.

That changed with eight second-quarter points. The game's momentum changed when Gooden countered Utah's run with a layup and two assists on Washington's next three possessions, pushing the margin back to double figures. He finished with 12 points two days before his contract expires.

"I got a nameplate," Gooden said while standing in front of his locker. "The gave me a little incentive that I might be here."

Guard John Wall had 14 points, 10 assists and two blocks as the Wizards snapped a four-game losing streak to the Jazz. Washington shot 54.3 percent from the field, scored 56 points in the paint and never trailed during the final three quarters. Center Marcin Gortat added 16 points and nine rebounds.

Alec Burks had 19 points and fellow guard Trey Burke scored 14 for the Jazz, who fell to 7-24 on the road this season. Utah has lost four straight overall and 11 of its last 16 games.

"We got it down to five a couple of times and we kept stressing the fact that we need to get two or three more stops to get over that hump," Burke said. "We never did."

Washington rebounded after having its season-high six-game winning streak snapped on Monday with a 110-104 home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Wizards also exacted revenge with a drama-free performance after falling 104-101 at Utah on Jan. 25.

"I'm glad. I'm tired of drama," Wittman said. "It was a solid game from start to finish."

Ariza sank 4 of 6 3-pointers. Over Washington's last eight games, he has made 31 of 49 from beyond the arc while averaging 19.6 points.

The Wizards led 54-44 at halftime as Ariza scored 14 points.

Miller, acquired at the trading deadline from the Denver Nuggets, had six assists. Washington finished with 28 assists to 12 turnovers.

Harrington returned on Feb. 25 after missing 45 games following a knee procedure. He scored eight of Washington's 22 bench points.

"On the court they outsmart people," Ariza said of the team's elders. "They know they're a little bit older so they used their wisdom a little better than a lot of us do."

Gooden believes he added smarts while waiting for a team to call.

"I've been playing this game for 12 years," said Gooden, who knocked down his patented mid-range shots against Utah. "I actually think what helped me was the time off, being able to observe the game from the house, from the couch, and know the type of player I'm going to be the next time I had opportunity to get a shot."

Utah made 13 of 22 free throws while Washington hit all 10 of its attempts.

The setback dropped the Jazz into the Western Conference basement, tied with the idle Los Angeles Lakers. The Sacramento Kings would also fall to 21-40 with a loss Wednesday night at the Milwaukee Bucks.

"You want to respect the game," the rookie Burke said. "We got to find a way to come together as a team and just push through to get more wins."

NOTES: Guard Gordon Hayward added 12 points for the Jazz. ... The Wizards played without F Martell Webster (back) and C Kevin Seraphin (knee). Seraphin missed his fifth consecutive game. ... Three members of the 2013 college basketball All-America team suited up at the Verizon Center over a 24-hour period. Wednesday's contest included Wizards rookie F Otto Porter and Jazz G Trey Burke. Creighton F Doug McDermott faced Georgetown on Tuesday. ... Utah heads north to face the New York Knicks on Friday. Washington starts a two-game road swing on Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

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