Well-rested Jazz survives road-weary WizardsBy The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Thu, Jan 24, 2013 1:00 AM EST
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz had an unusually easy schedule since the beginning of last week, playing just one game during an eight-day period. While Utah enjoyed some R&R, the Washington Wizards were busy playing four games on the road. Nobody watching the Jazz eke out a 92-88 win over the Wizards would have guessed that based on how Wednesday's game ended at EnergySolutions Arena. Paul Millsap scored 16 points and hauled in 15 rebounds and the well-rested Jazz survived after nearly blowing a 22-point lead despite the Wizards playing in their final night of a weeklong, five-game Western Conference road trip. "Yeah, it really is (a relief)," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said after watching his team give up all but two points of its game-high lead in the fourth quarter. "To have a such a long stretch off -- and we had some good days in practice -- it's difficult to get it going again when you have that many days off. But we won the game." Six Jazz players scored in double figures, including 15 from reserve Gordon Hayward, as Utah improved to 23-19 with its fourth straight victory. Al Jefferson added his 21st double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Jamaal Tinsley contributed 11 points, six assists and five rebounds. "I thought we relaxed a little and let them get a run," said Hayward, whose team has blown double-digit leads three times during its four-game winning streak. "We've just got to do better." Washington's Martell Webster scored 15 points, including 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range, and John Wall had 14 points and eight assists off the bench. It wasn't enough to prevent the Wizards from dropping to 9-31 while falling for the fifth time in their past seven outings in Utah. "We fought our way back after miserable execution offensively in the first half," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said after watching his team shoot 23.8 percent in the first quarter and score just 38 first-half points. "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." The Jazz built a 22-point first-half lead and then used a late 10-2 surge to regain a comfortable advantage to squash a gutsy comeback by the Wizards, who clawed to within two points in the fourth. The Wizards had a 10-0 spurt that began late in the third quarter and outscored Utah 14-2 to begin the fourth quarter. Four consecutive free throws by Wall and Jordan Crawford helped Washington trim Utah's lead to 80-78 midway through the fourth. Hayward ended that run with a drive, and then he hit one of two free throws followed by a Millsap putback to give the Jazz some breathing room at 85-78. "There's still a lot of basketball left. We've got to get stops," Wall said. "At the beginning, we just couldn't get enough stops. We got their two best players in foul trouble (Jefferson and Millsap). I don't think we had enough legs left to close it out." Millsap all but sealed the Jazz's fifth straight home win with a jumper with 21 seconds remaining to give Utah a 90-84 lead. That shot followed a rushed fading shot by Webster, which could have trimmed the Jazz's lead to two with 42.9 seconds to go. Webster made things interesting in the final moments by hitting a 3-pointer at the 13.6 mark, but Randy Foye hit two free throws to clinch a Jazz win. Foye finished with 12 points, while Enes Kanter gave the Jazz 10 points off the bench. Utah's reserves, led by Kanter and Hayward, sparked runs of 12 and seven points in the first half as the Jazz took an early 47-25 lead. Washington center Emeka Okafor scored just six points, but he hauled in a game-high 17 rebounds. The Wizards struggled from the field, scoring 19 points in each of the first two quarters while shooting just 36 percent in their fifth game of this Western road swing. Washington, which had won five of seven games before Wednesday, went 2-3 on the trip. "It was a good trip, the last eight games total," Wittman said. "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." Utah hit 44.7 percent of its shots but won the points-in-the-paint battle 46-38. NOTES: Wall came off the bench for the seventh game in a row following his 33-game absence due to a left patella injury. Coach Randy Wittman didn't hint when that will change, but Wall should be able to play for longer periods in the near future. The point guard is averaging 25 minutes this season. For now, Wittman said, "That's all in the doctors' hands in terms of minutes." ... Jefferson isn't getting his hopes up for being named as an All-Star for the first time in his eight-year career when that is announced Thursday night. "To keep me from being disappointed, I don't think about it," said Jefferson, who averages 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds. "If it happens, I'm thankful. If it don't, I'll get some rest. That's the way I look at it." ... The Jazz went from playing just one game from Jan. 15-22 to playing 11 games in 18 days from Wednesday through Feb. 9.
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