The two hottest teams in the NBA met in Salt Lake City Wednesday night in a fantastic battle from start to finish, but the home team came up on the short end of the outcome.
Gordon Hayward put forth an exceptional effort and tallied a game-high 26 points to go with four rebounds, four assists and a steal, but it wasn’t enough, as the Jazz fell 88-84 to the Wizards in Energy Solutions Arena. The loss to Washington,who now boasts the Eastern Conference’s longest win streak at five games snapped Utah’s NBA-leading six-game win streak. Afterward, G-Time complimented the Wizards, but also noted the way his team competed with Washington says a lot about how far they’ve come.
“They’re a good defensive team,” Gordon said of the Wiz. “You give them credit, but we missed some looks that we normally knock down and you’re going to have some of those nights. I’m proud that we still battled and still gave ourselves an opportunity. I think it’s a sign that we’re growing.”
Utah’s defense was exceptional all night, forcing 22 turnovers that they turned into 22 points, and they outscored the Wizards 42-28 in the paint. But it ultimately came down to shooting, and the Jazz were never able to make shots on a consistent basis throughout the night.
“We only turned the ball over nine times and we forced 22,” Gordon told reporters after the game. “Our defense was swarming. We still played well defensively. They hit some tough shots, especially down the stretch. John Wall hit some tough shots. For the most part, though, I thought we played pretty well defensively, it kept us in the game. Like I said though, just our shooting—from the line, from three. Maybe it would’ve been a different story.”
Two nights after one of the best shooting nights Utah has ever seen, the Jazz couldn’t buy a bucket against the Wizards, especially from long range. The Jazz went an amazing 15-for-24 from distance against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night, but they didn’t seem to have any good strokes left on Wednesday, and went just 4-for-22 from beyond the arc against the Wizards.
The Jazz were cold right from the start, with G-Time among the few bright spots on offense. The team went just 8-for-22 from the field and 1-for-8 from three-point range in the first quarter, but Gordon put up eight points on a respectable 2-for-5 shooting and 1-for-3 from distance to go along with a pair of assists.
Despite being outshot by an amazing 20 percent from the field, the Jazz went into halftime down by just two points.
Utah slowly began finding their touch in the second half, and No. 20 again paced the team in scoring with eight points in the third quarter on 4-for-7 shooting. The Jazz entered the final quarter trailing by six, and were down by eight when Gordon re-entered the game at the 7:07 mark.
G-Time made his presence felt immediately, finding guard Trey Burke for a three on Utah’s next possession.
The ensuing few minutes were a back-and-forth battle with neither team giving an inch, and Utah still trailed by four heading into the final minute of action. As a leader of the team with an understanding of how ineffective the Jazz offense had been for much of the game, Gordon opted to take matters into his own hands and drove right into the heart of the Wizards defense to draw a foul. He nearly got the basket to fall as well, but the ball just barely rimmed out.
The star forward calmly knocked down both free throws to bring his team within two, but Paul Pierce knocked down a pair from the stripe on the other end to stretch the lead back to four. After some exceptional defense that forced two Wizards turnovers in the final 20.3 seconds, Utah had a chance to inbound the ball in the frontcourt.
The play head coach Quin Snyder drew up appeared to be foiled by the Wizards defense, so Gordon improvised and found a lane to the basket. Forward Joe Ingles spotted No. 20 making his move and lobbed a perfect alley-oop that Gordon dunked with authority.
That inbounds play between Jingles and Gordon went from awful to amazing in a split second https://t.co/5X7TX30Bb9
— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) March 19, 2015
Unreal. Ingles finds G-Time on out of bounds alley oop!
Jazz down 2 with 12.5 left. #WASatUTA
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 19, 2015
After a brilliant lob to Hayward for a dunk, the Wizards lose the ball on the inbounds. Jazz ball, down 2, 11.5 left. WASatUTA
— Salt City Hoops (@saltcityhoops) March 19, 2015
The play took just 0.4 seconds off the clock, leaving Utah within striking distance with 12.5 seconds remaining. Some exceptional defense and a bit of a careless play by Wall resulted in a turnover on the next possession, and suddenly the Jazz had a chance to tie or take the lead.
Gordon caught the inbounds pass in the baseline corner, dribbled out to the wing and as he assessed the defense, and used a jab step to create an opening for himself along the perimeter. From about a foot behind the three-point line, G-Time fired up a triple that would have put his Jazz up by one, but it was just off the mark.
“I knew as soon as it left my hand, I didn’t think it was good,” he said of the shot. “I kind of rushed it a little bit. I didn’t think I had as much space as I had, I hit[Pierce] with the jab and he backed off. It’s a learning experience. Next time I’ll know what to do and I can be better.”
Wall secured the rebound, got fouled and drained both free throws to put Washington up by four, and with Utah out of timeouts, the game was over.
Despite the loss, Snyder expressed glowing pride in his team for its resilience and grit throughout the game, especially against a young Wizards team on the upswing.
“I’ve got no problem with how any of our guys played,” he said. “We can play better, but I don’t think you can look at one guy and there was something lacking. I’m proud of them, I loved how we competed. It would have been nice to win, but that’s the game. The physicality of the game made it harder, and that’s how it goes.”
The Jazz complete a brutal back-to-back on Thursday when they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers, the third and final matchup between the teams this season, at Staples Center.
Utah and LA split the first two meetings, both of which were played at EnergySolutions Arena. Over the course of those two contests, Gordon averaged 25.5 points and five assists per game.
On Thursday, G-Time will likely be matched up with Wesley Johnson, an incredibly athletic wing with a smooth jumper. Johnson is averaging a career-high 9.7 points per game this season and his style will be a stiff test for Gordon’s ever-improving defense..
Tip-off from Staples Center is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MT and the game can be seen locally on Root Sports.
- Jazz fall just short against Wizards, win streak halted at six (ESPN, March 19, 2015)
- Gordon Hayward postgame interview (NBA.com, March 19, 2015)
- Jazz fall short in physical battle with Wizards (SLC Dunk, March 19, 2015)
- Jazz can’t handle surging Wizards (KSL.com, March 19, 2015)
- Loss to Wizards a learning experience for Utah (Salt City Hoops, March 19, 2015)
- Lakers vs. Jazz preview (ESPN)