Wednesday, March 18, 2009
SALT LAKE CITY, March 17 -- Deron Williams admitted that the Utah Jazz put an underwhelming end to a three-game losing streak.
The Jazz played well enough to beat the Washington Wizards, 103-88, on Tuesday night, but knew they got away with mistakes that would have cost them against better teams.
"I don't think it was our best effort, but we did what we had to do," said Williams, who had 12 points and eight assists.
After winning 12 straight, the Jazz had lost the final three games of a five-game road trip and couldn't afford to slip up against the hapless Wizards, who have the second-worst record in the NBA.
"It was just important for us to get this one -- just for our confidence," Williams said. "We had three tough losses on the road and we were struggling."
Ronnie Brewer scored 13 points despite playing only the second and fourth quarters as punishment for oversleeping and missing Tuesday morning's shoot-around. Kyle Korver added 15 points on his 28th birthday as seven Utah players scored in double figures.
Nick Young and Juan Dixon had 14 points each to lead Washington.
Antawn Jamison added 13 points and 10 rebounds and Andray Blatche pulled down 13 rebounds for the Wizards, who hung with the Jazz for the first half but couldn't keep up in the third quarter.
"I thought in the first half our defense was actually pretty solid. In the second half they wore us down and that ends up being the story of the game," Washington interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "It's hard to come back against this team. A lesson learned."
The Wizards, who were opening a four-game West Coast trip that takes them to Los Angeles to play the Clippers (16-50) on Wednesday night, fell to 16-52.
Caron Butler missed his second straight game with an injury to his left hamstring. Coupled with long-term injuries to Brendan Haywood, Gilbert Arenas, Etan Thomas and DeShawn Stevenson, the Wizards were left with just 10 active players. That opened up 18 minutes of court time for forward-center Oleksiy Pecherov, who'd played in just five of the Wizards' previous 15 games. Pecherov's 13 points were his most since a Feb. 4 loss to New Jersey, and the minutes were the most since he played 22 in a Feb. 6 loss to Denver.
Utah's losing streak had knocked it to No. 7 in the Western Conference playoff race and out of the Northwest Division lead.
"That's one of the things you always have to be concerned about is are the playoffs important enough for you to go after it?" Utah Coach Jerry Sloan said. "We can talk about it all we want, but sometimes our effort doesn't look like that."
Utah was playing at home for the first time since March 6 and was sluggish through the first half while taking a 46-36 lead. Utah had a little more life in the third quarter as Williams sparked the offense and the Jazz went 12 for 21 from the floor.
"It wasn't the prettiest game. It was a little ugly," Boozer said. "For us, we'll take a win after a three-game slide."
Utah used a 7-0 run to pull away early, then really got going after a brief confrontation between Williams and Dixon in front of the Utah bench.
Dixon caught Williams up high with a foul during a drive toward the basket with 8 minutes 7 seconds left in the period. Williams had a few words for Dixon as he was pulled away by teammates, including Boozer, who charged in and cleared out some room for his star point guard.