As the Jazz (27-12) made light work of the Wizards (13-26) to earn its ninth straight win, even the two-time defensive player of the year scored effortlessly. Center Rudy Gobert poured in 19 of his 21 points in the second half and dominated the interior with a game-high 14 rebounds.
“I think we just didn’t play as aggressively in the second half overall. We just let them play their game, what they wanted to do, use their strengths,” Wizards forward Davis Bertans said. “You know, once they start getting to the rim, they’re also getting good looks from three. It just went downhill from there.”
The Jazz won despite playing without standout guard Donovan Mitchell (upper respiratory infection) and falling into an early 15-point hole against a Washington team that is replenishing itself.
“They’re a good basketball team,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said. “They have a lot of really good players, and they’re missing probably their best player, but they still have a lot of depth.”
Beal started after missing seven of the Wizards’ previous eight games with a sore knee and finished with a team-high 25 points in 27 minutes.
“It felt good,” Beal said. “The biggest thing is just being out there with my teammates, just being able to get a rhythm, get up and down. Felt good for sure.”
The layoff didn’t seem to affect Beal at the start; he made 4 of 6 shots in the first quarter. But Beal finished the game shooting 11 for 25 and missed all seven of his three-point attempts.
Bryant, the Wizards’ starting center before a foot injury kept him out for about six weeks, played 15 minutes off the bench in his first game since Dec. 1. Bryant made 4 of 6 shots for eight points and added three rebounds, but his return couldn’t prevent Utah from earning a 44-37 rebounding advantage.
“This is the first game we’ve had a lot of bigs,” Brooks said. “We had two for a long time. We have to do a better job of rebounding. It’s always been a little bit of [an] Achilles’ heel for us, and we have to be a better rebounding team once we make a miss.”
While Beal and Bryant worked their way back into form, Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who briefly played for the Wizards in 2017, torched his former team with a game-high 31 points. Although Bogdanovic didn’t impact the game from the perimeter — he shot just 2 for 8 on threes — he often drew defenders into fouls and made all five of his free throw attempts. Utah went to the line 25 times overall, including 22 times in the second half.
“We did a great job of defending them without fouling with only three [free throw attempts allowed] in the first half,” Brooks said. “I think that changed the game.”
When Bogdanovic cooled off later in the game, reserve guard Jordan Clarkson filled in. With Utah down 11 to start the second half, Clarkson played on the unit that constructed the comeback. His driving layup with 3:49 remaining in the third quarter gave Utah its first lead, at 81-80, since the first quarter. Clarkson scored three more baskets before the end of the quarter and finished with 23 points on 10-for-22 shooting.
Other Jazz players stepped up in Mitchell’s absence: Joe Ingles hit four of Utah’s 10 three-pointers and finished with 20 points, and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay added 14.
“We were driving the ball downhill,” Utah Coach Quin Snyder said. “Emmanuel, [Clarkson], Bojan obviously took the ball around, so I thought us attacking the rim more in the second half was a big help.”