WASHINGTON — Dozens of fans in Utah Jazz jerseys sat in the sections by the team’s bench for Wednesday night’s game.
These spectators, outnumbering the ones with Washington Wizards gear in the visitors’ corner of the Verizon Center, sported shirts with the names of Stockton, Malone, Williams, Millsap, Korver, Maravich, Howard (yes, as in Josh), Hayward, Favors and Burke.
To the chagrin of their larger-than-usual road crowd — a group that included big fan Sen. Orrin Hatch, by the way — the athletes wearing the NBA-issued authorized Utah Jazz jerseys didn’t give them much to cheer about.
The Jazz played lackadaisically at times, looked discombobulated on defense and fell apart in crunch time.
This time that all happened in a 104-91 loss to the Wizards.
Utah fell for the fourth consecutive time on this six-game road trip, becoming the seventh of 30 NBA teams to reach the 40-loss mark on the season.
Don’t look now, but there are still 21 games remaining.
“Nobody likes losing,” Jazz center Derrick Favors said. “We’ve just got to find a way to fight through it, continue playing hard and just find a way to fight through it.”
The way they’re playing, even games against two of the league’s lowliest teams, New York and Philadelphia, look to be monumental challenges for this struggling squad.
“We’ve got to play it out. We can’t afford to think these last 21 games we’re just going to show up and let the games happen,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said after another longer-than-usual postgame chat with his players. “We’ve got to play to get better. We’ve got to make sure we come with focus and energy every night out there on the floor.”
Neither happened — or at least not for extended stretches — on this night when Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza looked like an All-Star with a game-high 26 points and Washington shot 54.3 percent.
To Utah’s credit, the Jazz did claw within five points a few times early in the fourth quarter.
But then mistakes piled up quicker than bills in Congress.
A backcourt violation.
Missed free throws.
Only three field goals in the final seven minutes and 47 seconds after a Diante Garrett floater brought the Jazz within striking range at 85-80.
“I don’t think we played as smart as we possibly could, and we just have to make that change,” Jazz point guard Trey Burke said. “We understand that it’s the last stretch of the season. Bodies are getting a little tired. That means that we have to be even more mentally tough and be willing to go out there and match their intensity, and we didn’t do that.”
Burke surpassed his 12.5 scoring average with 14 points, but he only made 5 of 14 shots on a night the Jazz shot 44.9 percent. Gordon Hayward also had an off-night, making only 5 of 12 field goals and scoring 12 points.
But it was the Jazz’s starting frontcourt that really struggled, with Favors, Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson combining for only 20 points.
Utah’s bench had a strong effort and kept the Jazz sorta, kinda in this one. Alec Burks had a team-high 19 points, Enes Kanter contributed 12 points and eight rebounds, and Jeremy Evans and Garrett each played well in their time.
It just wasn’t enough against a playoff-bound Washington team, which improved to 32-29 with its seventh win in eight games. The Wiz received big outings from Ariza (4 of 6 from 3-point range), flashy point guard John Wall (14 points, 10 assists), up-and-coming shooting guard Bradley Beal (22 points) and 6-11 brute Marcin Gortat (16 points, nine rebounds).
Corbin thought the Jazz especially struggled to defend the pick-and-roll when Gortat would set screens to allow Wall to drive on either side. From there, the former Kentucky player either scored or dished out to dangerous perimeter guys like Ariza and Beal.
“John Wall’s a load,” Corbin said. “They were adjusting the pick-and-rolls. We didn’t do a good job of keeping him one way once the screen came up.”
The Jazz were also killed by miscues as the Wiz scored 23 points off of 13 turnovers and benefited from Utah’s 13-for-22 free-throw shooting.
The result was a third double-digit loss in four games and the 31st loss this season by at least 10 points.11 comments on this story
“The past two games, the Milwaukee game (114-88 loss), our energy just wasn’t there and tonight, you know, it was the same type of thing,” Hayward said. “I thought we competed a little bit down the stretch, but it’s hard when you get down in a hole like that to come all the way back, especially on the road.”
NOTES: Former University of Utah star Andre Miller dished out six assists in 13 minutes for the Wizards. He was traded to Washington from Denver last month. The Jazz are now tied with the Lakers for the worst record in the Western Conference at 21-40. Utah dropped to a 7-24 on the road, lowest in the West.