The Washington Wizards lost to the Utah Jazz 120-112 on Thursday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down…
As the Wizards have navigated an extended losing skid over the last month, they have had many different problems contribute to their net result. But if you were to point to one in particular, you could say their 3-point defense has hurt them the most.
They regressed in that area on Thursday night, falling to the Utah Jazz for their 14th loss in 16 games. After snapping a 10-game losing streak against the Suns on Tuesday, the Wizards are back in the loss column.
For the reason why, look no further than the 3-point line where Utah made 16-for-35 (45.7%) from deep. The Jazz rank top-10 in the NBA in all 3-point shooting categories despite losing a bunch of their best shooters in the offseason. Washington couldn’t stop their revamped perimeter attack and couldn’t make enough threes to offset them, as the Wizards shot 7-for-21 (33.3%) from beyond the arc.
The Wizards did a nice job attacking some of Utah’s biggest weaknesses, as they outscored the Jazz 66-to-46 in the paint and 25-to-17 on the fastbreak. But they couldn’t take away arguably their biggest strength and that was the story of the game.
The Wizards fell to 12-21 on the season and moved to 1-4 on this West Coast road trip. They will close it out on Friday in Sacramento on the second night of a back-to-back.
Beal and everyone else
Bradley Beal had another strong offensive game in his third game back from a hamstring injury. After scoring 29 against the Lakers and 27 against the Suns, he dropped 30 points on the Jazz, shooting 13-for-20 from the field. He has now scored at least 20 points in 14 of his last 15 games. Lately, he’s had no trouble carving through defenses off the dribble, often with Nash dribbles down the baseline.
Beal had 14 points in the second quarter and then another 12 points in the fourth. The only problem is everyone else basically went cold. Beal was the only Wizards player to score in the fourth quarter until Kyle Kuzma (21 points) made a layup with 4:14 to go. The Jazz, meanwhile, carried over a hot third quarter and rode that momentum to the rest of the game.
Gafford played well
Daniel Gafford accounted for a lot of the paint points by himself. He had 13 points, shooting 6-for-9 with a collection of rim-rattling dunks. The Wizards employed the same strategy as Tuesday, the first game he started in place of Kristaps Porzingis, by setting Gafford up early and often. Beal found him for an alley-oop shortly after tip-off and he was well on his way from there.
Gafford wants to be in this year’s NBA dunk contest, which will take place in Salt Lake City in February. If he gets his wish, this may have been a preview on the same rims.
Beal & Gaff start the second half the same exact way they started the first half with an alley-oop slam😲 pic.twitter.com/CfhjxRYymC
— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) December 23, 2022
The Wizards welcomed back Rui Hachimura after a 16-game absence due to a bone bruise in his right ankle. Hachimura had missed exactly half of the Wizards’ 32 games so far this season and he left a void, as they have lacked scoring depth and general production from their bench. Hachimura was on a minutes restriction but showed some flashes while he was on the floor.
In 24 minutes, Hachimura contributed seven points plus seven rebounds and a steal. He shot 3-for-4 from the field, mixing in a lot of his usual go-to moves in the midrange. His first basket was a highlight, as he drove hard to his right past Rudy Gay for an and-1 layup.
Rui Hachimura’s first bucket after missing 16 games was a nice one. pic.twitter.com/wvRkU0pOSL
— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) December 23, 2022
While the Wizards got Hachimura back, they were down two starters as Porzingis sat out for the second straight game with a non-COVID illness and Deni Avija was sidelined with lower back tightness. According to play-by-play announcer Chris Miller, Avdija tweaked his back while dunking at shootaround earlier in the day.
Apparently, it was a fairly run-of-the-mill play he hurt himself on. Still, it was enough to make him sit out a game, which is very rare for him. Avdija had not missed a game since his rookie season, playing in 114 straight. Unfortunately, that streak is over, but the fact he has been so reliable is noteworthy given how much has changed around him in the last two years between injuries, COVID stints and roster moves.