It’s that time of year—when every game feels like the playoffs.
On a night when it was chippy and heated (and really, really loud) the Utah Jazz pulled away in the fourth quarter to take down the Washington Wizards 95-88.
The Jazz (47-29) continue to hold down the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings, and they’re sitting 1.5 games ahead of the LA Clippers with six games remaining.
Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 19 points, while Rudy Gobert logged a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds (and three blocks).
Shelvin Mack (15 points), Joe Ingles (11 points), Rodney Hood (11 points) and Danté Exum (10 points) also scored in double figures in the win.
Bradley Beal led all scorers with 27 points, while John Wall scored 16 points (on only 6-for-22 shooting) in the loss for the Wizards (46-30).
After a slow start (he didn’t score his first point until midway through the second quarter), Hayward turned it on late to help the Jazz seal the victory. He drilled three mid-range jumpers en route to 10 fourth-quarter points, and he added three assists and one momentum-changing block down the stretch.
The game heated up in the second half. Wall picked up a technical for hitting Gobert below the belt on a screen. Hayward responded by blocking Wall’s transition layup attempt, which led to a corner three by Ingles. Hayward then sank a corner three of his own on Utah’s next possession to give the Jazz a one-point lead and some much-needed momentum midway through the third quarter.
Exum put down two tough layups (the second coming after he blew past John Wall along the baseline) to keep the Jazz close early in the fourth quarter. Gobert made two free throws and threw down a dunk, and then Hayward hit a sweet fadeaway over Wall to give Utah a 78-76 lead with 5:24 left. Hayward hit another mid-range jumper and then dished it to Ingles for a picture-perfect corner three that gave the Jazz a lead they wouldn’t give up.
Washington, though, still had a chance at the end, but Ingles grabbed a huge steal that led to a transition layup by Mack to give Utah a four-point lead with 1:13 left in the game. After Beal drilled a jumper, Mack drove in for another layup to keep things rolling for the Jazz. Gobert’s close-out on D forced Beal to step out of bounds on Washington’s ensuing possession, giving the ball back to the Jazz with 35.3 seconds left. Mack and Ingles then combined for three free throws to ice Utah’s victory.
Over their past four games, the Wizards had averaged 125 points. They only managed 88 tonight—37 below that number. Washington shot 40.2 percent from the field, including 29.4 percent (5-for-17) from 3-point range.
Utah’s inability to clear the defensive glass nearly cost them the game. Washington grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and outscored the Jazz 18-5 on second-chance points. Five of Marcin Gortat’s game-high 11 rebounds came on the offensive glass.
Rudy Gobert Block Section
Coach’s Quote of the Night
“Those two guys (Wall and Beal), they’re arguably the best backcourt in the league, and that’s why their team is where they are. They’re a terrific team. We just tried to make it hard on them, and even when you do that, Beal hit some really tough shots. … It was a great effort for our guys, and a lot of different people had to guard those guys. We did a lot of switching, so that responsibility fell to the whole team.”
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
George Hill (groin), Raul Neto (groin) and Derrick Favors (knee) were out for the Jazz. … Gobert ranks fourth in the NBA with 53 double-doubles. … Former Jazz guard Trey Burke did not play tonight for Washington. … The game featured 12 ties and 12 lead changes. … Utah scored 22 points off of Washington’s 15 turnovers. … The Jazz shot 10-for-25 (40.0 percent) from 3-point range. … Utah was consistent, shooting 45.7 percent in the first half and 45.9 percent in the second half.
The Jazz will hit the road for a matchup with the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon. Tipoff is set for 1:30 p.m. MT, and the game will be televised nationally on ABC.