Wizards vs. Jazz: Washington wins second road game of season with overtime victory over Utah
By Michael Lee,
SALT LAKE CITY — John Wall was fed up and flustered by the constant snickers and cackles about the Washington Wizards’ horrific play on the road this season. Following their 10th straight loss away from Verizon Center on Sunday to Golden State, the No. 1 overall pick pledged that it was up to the players to finally do something about winning just one of their first 36 road games.
“You don’t want to have just one road win,” Wall said. “We’ve got to go out there and play and control it ourselves. Can’t nobody else control it.”
And when he stepped on the same court where John Stockton and later Deron Williams once ran the show, Wall took it upon himself to make sure that the Wizards wouldn’t finish the season by matching the worst regular season road record in NBA history. Wall did his part in the first half, scoring 24 of his game-high 28 points, but the Wizards needed Jordan Crawford and Maurice Evans — the two remaining players from the Kirk Hinrich trade with Atlanta — to finish off the Utah Jazz as they won on the road for the just the second time this season, 100-95, in overtime.
“We got tired of hearing about it before we won one. To get the second one, we know we’re going to hear about it again,” Wall said after the Wizards (18-55) improved to 2-35 with a roller coaster victory at Energy Solutions Arena. The victory helped the Wizards avoid tying the NBA record for fewest road wins with the 1990-91 Sacramento Kings, who went 1-40 on the road. “It was great. We didn’t want to go in the record books as that.”
Crawford scored 25 points, forcing overtime with a baseline jumper with 4.4 seconds left and then getting two steals and scoring the first four points of the extra frame. The Wizards also snapped a four-game losing streak and finished this five-game West Coast road trip at 1-4. Evans, starting in place of the injured Nick Young, added 12 points, with seven coming in the overtime.
JaVale McGee had 11 points and 17 rebounds a night after getting a career-high 28 points and matched his career high with 18 rebounds the night before against the Warriors. And Othyus Jeffers, who signed a second 10-day contract the day before and played in Utah last season, helped the Wizards get a win against his former team as he had six rebounds, including five offensive, and played solid defense off the bench.
“It was a great team effort,” Crawford said. “I really feel every time we come into a gym, we got to get a win. We only have  wins — every game has to be a win.”
The Wizards appeared set to win the game in regulation when Crawford made a pull-up jumper to give his team an 82-73 lead with 7 minutes 35 seconds left and Wall, who played 50 minutes, getting a rare breather on the bench. But they were unable to make a field goal for the next seven minutes and the Jazz took advantage, going on a 12-1 run to take an 85-83 lead with 14 seconds remaining.
Coach Flip Saunders drew up a play for Crawford out of the timeout and the rookie knocked down the jumper, ending the scoring drought. “They gave it to me,” Crawford said. “I felt I had to come through. Luckily I did.”
Gordon Hayward (12 points) missed a potential game-winner, as his jumper bounced off the backboard and then the rim. Evans closed out the game in overtime, making a huge three-pointer and another pull-up jumper with the shot clock winding down.
“Cardiac kids,” Saunders said. ‘We’ve been on the road, to come in here on a back-to-back, having five of your top seven guys out, that’s a helluva win for these guys. I was really happy. We’ve been in situations to win and we haven’t been able.”
McGee opened the scoring for the Wizards by rebounding a miss by Yi Jianlian and dunking, but Wall was responsible for the next 31 points for the Wizards, as he scored 20 points and handed out four assists to help the Wizards take a 33-27 lead in the second period. With Jazz point guard Devin Harris out with a hamstring injury, Wall attacked Earl Watson and Ronnie Price and used his speed to get to the basket whenever he felt compelled to go.
Wall scored 24 points on 10 for 11 shooting in the first half, flexing after making a difficult floater following a collision with Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors and getting another off-balanced, underhanded scoop shot to drop before falling to the ground.
“John destroyed them,” Saunders said. “Basically they couldn’t guard him.”
When the Wizards defeated the Jazz on Jan. 17, it was their first victory over a team with a winning record this season. But since those teams have met, the Jazz has undergone a dramatic transformation that started when Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan resigned, surprisingly, after nearly 23 years with the organization. Utah has gone 5-16 since, but only three of those games were with all-star point guard Deron Williams, who was shipped to New Jersey in another startling move for franchise that has become synonymous with stability.
The Jazz came back in the second half by switching to a zone, cutting off Wall’s driving lanes and disrupting the offense. Favors, whom the Jazz acquired in the Williams trade, scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter as Utah staged a fierce rally, but the Wizards held firm in the end. They have now won season series against the Nets and Jazz this season, but after the game, they were only celebrating another road win.
“I was part of the team that didn’t make history,” Jeffers said.