WASHINGTON — If you happened to sleep in Monday and missed the Utah Jazz's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day matinee, don't feel too bad.
The Jazzzzzzzzz did, too.
Playing a holiday game that tipped off at 11 a.m. Mountain Time, Utah woke up on the wrong side of the scoreboard before slumbering through a surprising 108-101 loss to Washington.
"They came out and they played better than us," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "It looked like they wanted the game a little bit more, like it meant more to them."
Not many opponents have been able to say that after playing the 12-win Wizards.
And after seeing his team's three-game winning streak snapped by one of the NBA's worst teams, Williams didn't blame drowsiness or time of day for the Jazz's sluggishness.
The All-Star point guard pointed his fingers at the Jazz, who can't shake their bad habit of starting slowly.
"It's the same problems we've been having all year," he said.
Early execution was a glaring problem, noted Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who thought his team relied on too many outside shots and post-ups and not enough movement toward the hoop.
Williams agreed, even casting a surprising light on why that keeps happening.
"It's because we don't execute," Williams said, beginning a mini-rant.. "So, if we don't execute it's going to be one-on-one play. We've said that all year.
"We don't run hard," he added. "We don't run through. We don't execute. We don't screen. We don't know the plays."
And, yes, he did say that last part Monday — on Jan. 17, following Game 41 of the 2010-11 season.
"Whatever it is," Jazz center Al Jefferson said, "we've just got to get better at it.
Sloan believes running the offense the way it's supposed to be run would be a, well, good start.
"It's been very hard for us, the way we've come out," Sloan said. "We seem like we come out and everybody tries to get themselves going by taking jump shots rather than to use the offense, and that's kind of the kiss of death."
Before Utah players could figure out how to spell, say or stop Andray Blatche, the Jazz trailed the Wiz 17-5 thanks to an early 10-point explosion from the 6-foot-11 forward.
And it didn't get much better — at least for extended periods of time — for Utah after that.
The Jazz scored only 18 points in the first quarter after missing 13 of 20 shots, marking the 31st time in 41 games they've trailed after the opening period. They returned to the locker room at halftime with a measly 39 points.
"It's frustrating," Jazz guard Raja Bell said. "But I'm over it. On paper, you're supposed to win this one, but we did not win this one.
"Maybe," he added, "it's a good lesson for the rest of the games on this road trip, that if we come out against anybody and don't do what we're supposed to do, we're going to get beat or put ourselves in a position where we can get beat, so we can't do that."
The Jazz, who continue their five-game road trip Wednesday in New Jersey, nearly fought out of two double-digit holes. They erased the Wiz's early 12-point lead and took a one-point edge after consecutive 3-pointers by C.J. Miles in the second quarter.
But, after only trailing by three at the break, Utah struggled to slow down Washington while falling behind by 15 in the third.
Continuing another habit, the Jazz staged a fierce rally to pull within three at 101-98 with 1:29 remaining.
But Paul Millsap's magical touch wasn't there on the next possession, and Nick Young followed the Jazz power forward's missed open jumper with a gut blow of a 3-pointer.
Game all but over.
Gnashing of teeth — and second-guessing a poor performance — just beginning.
"You don't want to lose, regardless, especially a game that was in your hand," Jefferson said. "But it's going to wake us up the next time, because we came out and played like crap. We can't just keep putting ourself in them situations and thinking we're going to fight back every time."
Defense ultimately cost Utah, but the Jazz didn't get enough scoring support outside of double-doubles from Williams (28 points, 11 assists) and Jefferson (25 points, 10 rebounds).
The lengthy Wizards, whose starters each stand 1-3 inches taller than Utah's first five, played like they were inspired to win their traditional home game on Dr. King's holiday. Washington outshot Utah 53.5 percent to 45.0 percent, outrebounded the Jazz 44-33 and had one more assist (27-26).52 comments on this story
Young scored a team-best 25; Blatche added a sensational line of 21 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and three steals; and Rashard Lewis chipped in 13 second-half points.
Topping that was one of No. 1 pick John Wall's best outings of his rookie season.
The speedster dished out a career-best 15 assists to go with 19 points and five rebounds, more than making up for his seven turnovers.
"He's definitely one of the best point guards of the game already," Williams said. "He played well tonight, picked us apart with his passing, scored when he needed to and hit free throws down the stretch."