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Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson too much for this batch of Wizards to handle

Published: Friday, Feb. 17 2012 10:54 p.m. MST

Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) slams over Washington's Chris Singleton.      (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) slams over Washington's Chris Singleton. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Washington Wizards' uniforms are a fond throwback to the franchise's glory days, when they had guys like Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes patrolling the paint and won an NBA championship in the late-1970s.

Well, they sure could've used Unseld and Hayes on Friday night — even though they're both 60-something now and maybe more than just a little past their prime these days.

After all, those two great old Hall of Famers couldn't have been much worse at trying to defend Utah center Al Jefferson and his Jazz teammates than this year's version of the Wizards was at EnergySolutions Arena.

Jefferson scored 26 of his game-high 34 points in the first half, including 16 of Utah's last 20 first-half points. During one unstoppable stretch, Big Al scored 14 straight Jazz points to help give Utah a 62-50 halftime lead on a night when the Jazz abused the Wizards inside, pouring in a season-best 70 points in the paint — the most they've scored in almost two years.

"I saw a couple of (early) ones go in and my right hand got going and I made some shots," said Jefferson, who raised his season scoring average to 19 points per game with Friday night's season-best outburst. "(We) also played great 'D' and my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball in the right spots.

"What did it was our defense, being able to get stops and run. That's what did it for us."

Utah coach Tyrone Corbin, whose team moved back over .500 at 15-14 with the win, said that one of the keys to his team's impressive performance was the fact that they had two days off after a tough back-to-back-to-back road trip.

"For the most part, we came out and did the things we talked about (Thursday in practice) in being aggressive," he said, "and we did a good job on the defensive end. We wanted to come out and set the tempo and attack the basket (early).

"In the first half, we had 42 points in the paint. Devin (Harris) did a good job pushing the ball and attacking the ball in transition. We did a good job of executing our offense."

And Jefferson's big night, Corbin said, came about in part because the Jazz big man was able to get a rare day off on Wednesday.

"I think the rest (helped)," the Jazz coach said. "He looked really sharp out there and the offense kind of ran through him. He made the right shots and passed to his teammates when he was double-teamed."

Jefferson also had a dozen rebounds, as did fellow Jazz big man Paul Millsap, who scored 14. Harris had a season-high nine assists to go along with 12 points, rookie Alec Burks contributed 13 points off the bench and Raja Bell added 10 more points for a Utah team that shot 59 percent from the field in the first half, led by as many as 28 points in the second half and wound up with a season-best 114 points in all.

Bell commended Jefferson for his oustanding decision-making.

"I thought Al did a good job out there when the double teams came," the veteran shooting guard said. "He picked and chose when he wanted to score or when he wanted to kick it out so that the guys on the perimeter could get opportunities."

Something guys like Unseld and Hayes could certainly appreciate, too.

email: rhollis@desnews.com

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