SALT LAKE CITY — The camaraderie and upbeat attitude that has developed during the Washington Wizards’ longest trip of the season was evident in pregame warmups, as players lined up and mimicked Jordan Crawford’s game-winning shot in Portland two nights earlier. After Martell Webster’s deep three-pointer dropped, Webster let out his tongue, leaned over and ran down the court as Crawford and other teammates laughed.
But shortly after the Wizards actually tipped off against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, they appeared as if they were simply ready to go back home. They were listless, defenseless and plodding and found themselves down 21 points with less than 15 minutes remaining.
Then John Wall decided he would make things a little interesting. With a few mad dashes to the basket and a few more dishes to shooters who could actually convert, Wall engineered a run that brought the Wizards close before they eventually lost, 92-88, at EnergySolutions Arena.
“It’s a lot of basketball game left,” Wall said after scoring 14 points with eight assists in just 26 minutes. “We gave ourselves a chance to get back in the game, but we fought so hard to get back, I don’t think we had enough legs to close it out.”
The Wizards (9-31) have moved beyond the moral victory portion of the season and were hoping to come home with a winning trip for the first time in six seasons. They finished the five-game trip 2-3, losing those to Utah, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers by a combined 12 points.
“Consensus is everybody is ready to go home. There’s no secret about that,” A.J. Price said after scoring 10 points. “Would’ve been feeling much better about yourself if you come and end the road trip with a ‘W,’ as opposed to how we did.”
On Wednesday, they were unable to overcome a horrific shooting performance to start the game, connecting on just 36 percent (31 for 86) of their field goal attempts. They are now 0-25 when outshot by their opponents.
Center Emeka Okafor made a power move in the second period to get inside on Jefferson, but he threw the ball over the rim instead and it landed in Jazz reserve Earl Watson’s hands. Jefferson was credit with the block.
“The ball refused to go in the bucket,” said Okafor, who had 17 rebounds but combined with front-court mate Nene to score just 15 points on 6-for-24 shooting.
Bradley Beal had 12 points but he was hampered by a sore wrist that he injured on a hard fall in Denver last week and also tweaked his right ankle, forcing him to leave the court and head to the locker room in the first half. His struggles were most apparent at the foul line, where he missed 4 of 6 attempts, including two after getting fouled on a three-pointer with one-tenth of a second remaining.
“It was my wrist, it was really bothering me,” Beal said. “I can’t use it as an excuse. If I’m out there playing, I have to be doing something. I got to make my shots and free throws, because they’re free. I’ve got to do better.”
With the Wizards dragging, the Jazz had its way, as veteran point guard Jamaal Tinsley put on a dazzling dribbling display — he threw a bounce pass to himself between Trevor Booker’s legs — and everyone else repeatedly getting inside for easy layups, building a healthy cushion that allowed it sweep the season series.
Jazz reserve guard Gordon Hayward (15 points) used a behind-the-back dribble to get Webster off-balance, then blew past him and drew a foul as he made a nifty left hand layup to put Utah ahead, 47-25, in the second quarter. Later in the period, four Wizards revealed their dead legs when they watched Hayward dart into the lane to rebound his own miss.
“There has to be a 48-minute game, or at least close to it. It can’t be a 32-minute game or a 27-minute game. We have to perform the whole game and we didn’t do that,” Webster said after scoring 15 points. “That’s the reason why we lost. We have things to work on. We found ourselves playing out of the trenches.”
The Wizards limited Jazz leading scorer Al Jefferson to just 11 points but he made a foul line jumper to give the Jazz a 73-52 lead with 2 minutes 15 seconds left in the third quarter. Wall, however, lead his team back, scoring six points and handing out three assists during a 20-2 run that spanned roughly five minutes brought the Wizards within 75-72 when Trevor Ariza made a three-pointer.
Kevin Seraphin later added a short jumper to cut the deficit to 80-78, but the Jazz pulled away with an 8-2 run, punctuated by a Nene turnover that ended with Webster committing a clear path foul on Hayward.
“Each timeout, it was, we’re down 22, let’s get it to 15, let’s get it to 10, let’s keep plugging away,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “We got to single digits and these guys thought they had a chance. Are we tired a little bit? Probably, but the good thing about it, we didn’t give into it. We fought back to get in and have an opportunity. I can’t be displeased about that.”