WASHINGTON — It's nothing like Butler University returning to Indianapolis to play in the NCAA Final Four.
But the Jazz went home a content team after beating Washington 103-87 on Saturday night, kicking themselves for losing Friday night at Indiana but otherwise happy with the way things are going as their 2009-10 NBA season winds down.
"Throw out (Friday's) game, I think we are," point guard Deron Williams said. "We've played well over the last couple months."
Saturday was another such outing, as Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer both scored a game-high 22 points and Williams added 20 for the 48-26 Jazz.
All three had double-doubles, Boozer his 49th this season, Williams his 40th and Okur his 11th.
It was the sixth win in the last eight games and 29th in the past 38 for the Jazz, who handed the struggling Wizards a franchise record-extending 15th consecutive loss.
"Everybody thinks these games are real easy," coach Jerry Sloan said after Utah finished a three-game trip 2-1 following its win over one of the NBA's worst. "These are tough games. ... You never know what you've got to deal with."
On Saturday, it mostly was the need to avoid what happened Friday vs. the Pacers.
And the Jazz — who can clinch their 24th postseason appearance in the last 27 years with a Memphis loss at Milwaukee this afternoon — did just that, shooting 59.1 percent from the field while holding the Wizards to 38.8.
"It was a good game for us," Boozer said. "We came with a better defensive focus, defensive effort.
"(Friday night) we felt like we didn't play any defense. But (Saturday night) we did a good job of helping each other defensively, getting rebounds, trying to make it more physical of a game."
Washington was still within five more than five minutes into the third quarter, but Utah — which had assists on 32 of its 39 baskets — went into the fourth up 15 at 80-65.
The Jazz never allowed the Wizards to get back below double digits.
And when Boozer used a Williams feed for a fastbreak layup and the free throw that followed, they were up a game-high 22 at 98-76 with 4:29 to go.
"We just took over in the second half," Boozer said.
Boozer wound up 10-for-12 from the field, including 8-for-8 after the break, and Okur finished 9-for-14, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range.
"He was pretty much alive around the basket," Sloan said of Okur, "and had good looks at the basket most of the time."
Okur is playing more and more in the fourth quarter lately, and that combined with good health and even better fortune has him on quite a roll.
He had 27 points, one off his season high, against Indiana and has scored in double figures in four straight games since missing one with a stomach ailment.
"I'm way happy," said Okur, who has 11 or more rebounds in three of those last four games.
"At the beginning of the season, really my shot didn't fall for me. I was more stepping back, and stuff like that," he added. "But now I learned my lesson, and I want to start the ballgame with layups, dunks, whatever, free throws. It's really working out for me, and now I'm playing with a lot of confidence out there."13 comments on this story
The Jazz are playing with high-level poise and self-assurance too, which could bode well heading into home games Monday night vs. New York and Wednesday night vs. Golden State that could go a long way toward determining Utah's seed position when postseason play gets under way three weekends from now.
Save for the blip in Indiana.
"Obviously," Sloan said of a 2-1 trip that started with Wednesday's win at Toronto, "that's so much better than being 0-3."
"We'd rather be 3-0," Boozer added, "but we've got to take what we've got. We can't go back and play (Friday) night over."
Not even as much as they wish they could.
"We let one slip away (Friday)," Williams said, "and we really can't afford those bad losses."