Utah Jazz offense rolls to big night in defeat of Wizards
High-scoring effort gives Utah big confidence boost
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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."
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