Jazz dominate boards, pull away late
The fans at Verizon Center cheered late in an 83-76 loss that gave the Wizards a franchise-worst 0-8 record for the second straight year.
But it wasn't for the Washington. It was for missed free throws by the victorious Utah Jazz (5-6) after they'd pulled away with an 11-2 run in the fourth quarter. When Mo Williams (12 points, six assists) missed a pair at the line with 34.9 seconds, it meant free Chick-fil-A sandwiches for everyone in the building.
By then, the boos had already come, and then would again, evidence of growing frustration over games that seem winnable only to instead sink the Wizards further.
"It's too long of a season to feel like that," Wizards guard A.J. Price said. "If we ever get to that point, it's really over. We're 0-8 now. We can't have that type of attitude. We need to continue to try to get better, try to stick with it, keep on pushing and have confidence and belief that the next game will be the game that we'll win."
Saturday offered what seemed like the perfect opportunity, with the Jazz playing on the second night of back-to-back games at the tail end of a four-game road trip. Wizards coach Randy Wittman also shuffled his starting lineup and welcomed the addition of point guard Shaun Livingston. Washington started brightly and didn't allow the Jazz to score until almost five minutes had elapsed, jumping out to a 15-2 lead, and held Utah to season-low in points.
It was all undone by a 60-44 disadvantage on the boards, including a 26-16 margin on the offensive glass, and just 4-for-19 shooting in the final quarter. In the end, the Wizards became the first team in NBA since the 2001-02 and 2002-03 Memphis Grizzlies to start 0-8 in consecutive seasons.
"As a coach, you're trying to think of different things to try to find some semblance of balance," Wittman said. "We don't have any balance right now."
Jordan Crawford (20 points, eight assists) and Jan Vesely (five points, five rebounds, two blocks) started in place of Trevor Booker (zero points, seven rebounds) and rookie Bradley Beal (six points) as once again the Wizards had no balance between its first unit and reserves. Trevor Ariza had 16 points in the first half, none in the second.
"Coach said he was going to make changes," Beal said. "It didn't faze me either way, as long as I get to play, as long as we try to get the win."
After the Wizards' quick start, the Jazz turned the tables with a 13-2 run of their own. Jazz coach Ty Corbin also answered Wittman's adjustments, dropping Gordon Hayward (15 points) into a reserve role for the first time all season. The third-year swingman from Butler answered the call with 13 points in 13 minutes, slamming an alley oop from Mo Williams after one of many sloppy Wizards possessions early in the second period.
Washington was still hanging around despite Al Jefferson (13 rebounds) putting up 17 of his 21 points in the third quarter but gave up the lead for good after Derrick Favors (nine points, 10 rebounds) jammed home a loose ball for a 69-67 lead.
There was a time before when the cheers at were absurdly out of proportion with the score for a Wizards game. Late in an embarrassing loss to San Antonio in February 2011, a game in which Washington had trailed by as many as 41 points, former coach Flip Saunders mistakenly lauded the fans for staying with the team even though they were only after the chicken sandwich promotion.
This season's Wizards weren't supposed to be like Saunders' teams of the past two years. Saturday's out-of-place ovation was a sign that they're not that far removed.
"We got enough here to win games," Wittman said. "We do, and we've got to believe that."
The boos resumed when the final whistle sounded.
"It's acceptable," Crawford said. "We 0 and 8."