SALT LAKE CITY — Friday night's game might have been the NBA schedule-maker's version of a make-up call.
After enduring a back-to-back-to-back road trip and a four-games-in-five-nights-in-four-cities stretch, the Utah Jazz got a much-needed reprieve.
Two days off and a game against the woeful Washington Wizards were just what the rubber-chicken-swinging doctor behind the basket ordered.
That was apparent in a much-needed 114-100 victory in which the Jazz were infused with a whole lot of energy, enthusiasm and an extra-large dose of Al Jefferson.
"The season's such a grind," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "To see the guys come out tonight and work on the things that we talked about working on (and) to have fun playing basketball and getting a good win, it's great for everybody."
Big Al more than lived up to his nickname in this one, scoring a season-high 34 points with 12 rebounds to help the Jazz snap out of a serious funk with a season-high scoring total.
"No disrespect to Washington, but this was a team like New Orleans and New York, we should've beat," Jefferson said. "We've got to learn how to finish teams off. That's what we did in the third quarter. We finished them off."
Through three quarters, the Jazz had put more points on the scoreboard than they'd scored in 17 previous games. In fact, Utah's 100-78 lead after three Friday marked the first time the team had hit the century mark before the fourth quarter in 13 months.
By that point — and with the game all but wrapped up despite a small Wiz run in the fourth that cut the lead to 14 — Jefferson had already scored 32 points.
Pitted against 7-foot-1 JaVale McGee, the Jazz's 6-foot-10 center had 26 points in the first half alone. Jefferson really went wild in the second quarter when he poured in 16 of the Jazz's final 20 points before halftime, including a sizzling streak of 14 straight.
"I ain't never seen somebody dominate like that before," Jazz rookie Alec Burks said, perhaps overlooking Paul Millsap's similar 16-point fourth-quarter outburst in Denver last month.
"It was amazing," Millsap added. "He established the low post tonight. He dominated down low."
Jefferson won't be at All-Star Weekend, but he joked after his 16-for-23 outing that he'd win a Jump Hook Contest if the NBA had one. The eight-year veteran added that he knew Friday was going to be "one of them nights" after he threw up an in-motion shot that hit the bottom of the net.
"Once that right hand get going, even I can't stop it. It felt good, man," Jefferson said. "My teammates did a great job getting me the ball in the right spot."
This was one of those nights that just about everything was in the right spot for the Jazz, who improved to 15-14 after rough losses in New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
Utah shot 59.1 percent in the first half to take a 62-50 lead — the most points the team had scored in a half all year — and finished with a stellar 52.8 percent shooting night.
The Jazz also poured in 70 points in the paint, absolutely taking advantage of the Wizards, who still had a height advantage despite missing injured bigs Andre Blatche and Ronny Turiaf.
"We wanted to come out and set the tempo of attacking the basket first," Corbin said. "The first half we had 42 points in the paint. Al and Paul were a big part of that. Devin (Harris) did a good job of setting the tempo of pushing the ball early, attacking the basket some in transition. We just did a good job of executing our offense."
Millsap had a complementary 14 points and 12 boards, Burks had a strong 13-point effort off the bench and Harris contributed 12 points and a season-high nine assists.
Clearly, having Wednesday off and going through a good practice on Thursday did wonders for the Jazz morale — not to mention having a seven-win opponent in town.
"They're really focused on getting better," said Corbin, whose team had lost seven of nine coming in. "All the talk was just about getting back to how we were playing before and having the confidence to play against anybody, and we showed that tonight."
Flashy point guard John Wall led the 7-24 Wizards with 24 points and Jordan Crawford had 21, but they were outmatched and outworked by a hungry Utah team that desperately needed a win before Sunday's game in Houston.
"This is a good win for us," said Jazz guard Raja Bell, who increased his 3-point streak to 17 games in a 10-point game. "We needed something to lighten the mood a bit. Once we got up 15 or 20, it seemed like we got back to having fun, and for a team that was a little down in the dumps like we were, it was important."6 comments on this story
GAME NOTES: The last time Utah scored 100 through three quarters was against New York on Jan. 12, 2011. ... The Jazz's previous season-high scoring was 113 against Cleveland, last month. ... Utah's biggest lead was 28.