Jazz Scrape Out 107 – 104 Road Win against Wizards

January 10th, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

Ricky Rubio (3 in blue) rips the ball away from Bradley Beal (3 in white), one of his four steals and Washington’s costly 23 on the night. (NewsObserver Photo)

Story of the Game

Losers of 13 of their last 16 games, the Jazz have desperately been seeking a winning formula. Tonight they found it: Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors both out with injury, their second leading scorer Rodney Hood ejected in the third quarter, and their leading scorer Donovan Mitchell in foul trouble two minutes into the game.

Not what any would have anticipated as a winning combination, especially the Washington Wizards, but it worked.

While it’s tempting to celebrate Utah for this improbable win1, there’s no denying that the Wizards’s lethargy and, quite frankly, carelessness were as big a component of this outcome as anything else.

After the first quarter it looked like another Jazz loss in progress. Washington scored 32 points on 70 percent shooting, including nailing four of five from deep. At that point, however, Utah’s activity on defense increased at the same time the Wizards’s focus and discipline eroded. What followed was a turnover fest – and for the Jazz, an offensive feast.

Washington turned the ball over seven times in the second quarter. Then they coughed up the ball an astounding nine times in the third, fueling a 37-point Utah period. In the fourth, they added another five, helping the Jazz to hold on for only their fourth road win of the season, despite some shaky execution at times down the stretch.

The Jazz have proven a uniquely demoralizing opponent for the Wizards lately, winning five straight contests – the longest streak in the league against Washington – the last two in remarkable fashion: one 47-point blowout and one victory despite arguably Utah’s four best players2 missing either the entire game or a significant portion of it.

Stars of the Game

Superstar: Ekpe Udoh

16 points and nine rebounds is a nice night but not typically indicative of superstardom. But when Gobert and Favors are both unavailable and you were playing ball in Europe last year, you deserve this credit. Udoh was awesome in a game where his team needed him to step up big. Not only did he score 16, a clear season high and only his second time scoring double digits in a Jazz uniform, but he was hugely disruptive defensively, gathering in three steals and swatting a pair of shots. He even dished two assists. It was probably Udoh’s best game with the team and it came at a time where it was desperately needed.

Secondary StarsRicky Rubio and Joe Johnson

Rubio’s sojourn in bizarro-world caught a bit of silver lining tonight. He took 17 shots, which everyone would conceded is too many, but made nine, including three of five from three, for a team-leading 21 points. Rubio also played a major role in pressuring Washington until their ball possession came apart at the seems, pilfering the ball four times and causing numerous other headaches for Wizards ball handlers. He only dished three assists, but that has become more than norm than aberration with the Jazz and, while the team can’t count on him leading them in scoring very often, they needed it of him tonight.

With the injures to the team’s starting bigs and Hood ejected in the third quarter, Utah had a fever for scoring and Johnson was the prescription. The veteran coolly produced 16 points on only nine shots, including going three of four from both the three point line and free throw stripe. Moreover, he played a complete game, adding in four rebounds, four assists, and three big steals in 33 huge minutes of play.

Secret StarsJonus Jerebko and Royce O’Neale

Recently Utah has been starving for impactful games from more than one or two players any given night. Tonight, they got major contributions from a host of non-stars, but Jerebko and O’Neale in particular deserve being mentioned along with Udoh for some props. Jerebko (nine points, four rebounds, an assist, and a steal in 20 minutes) made an impact in a unique an unexpected way. The team’s best stretch four throughout this season missed his only three but repeatedly got to the rim off of screens, cuts, and just plain hustle. O’Neale gave plentiful production at high efficiency in his 14 minutes, scoring 10 points on a perfect four-of-four shooting, tossing in four rebounds, an assist, and a steal. The players tied with a team-high plus-10 in the game.

Stats of the Game

23 – Washington turnovers, tying their season high.

14 – Jazz advantage in field goal attempts. When a team gets 14 more shots than an opponent, they’d better win and the Jazz did just that.

27 – Shots by Utah in the third quarter alone. The Lakers take more shots than any team in the league, and their average for a quarter is just over 22.

23.2 – Washington’s turnover ratio. They fumbled away the ball in nearly one of every four possessions.

15 – Utah steals, one shy of the team’s season high.

Minus-6/Minus-7 – Utah’s disadvantage in shooting percentage from the field and the three point line. It isn’t often a team is out-shot in both areas and manages to win the game.


  • The first quarter was a fascinating contrast of point guards, one – John Wall – utterly comfortable in his offense and one – Rubio – an awkward fit. Rubio ended up with 12 points on six shots where Wall notched only nine, but Wall added six assists to Rubio’s none. When Wall took shots, it was often an illustration of the offense working. When Rubio did, it was frequently a product of Quin Snyder’s motion offense stalling.
  • Mitchell (16 points, five rebounds, four assists, a steal, and a block) had a tough night in many ways. Two fouls before three minutes had been played, then his third quickly in the second quarter, and his fourth in the third. He also continued struggling with his deep shot, making only two of 10 threes, though a number were end of the shot clock jacks forced on him by teammates. But fans need not pump the breaks too much on the rookie. He has at least one put-the-world-on-notice moment in every game, and tonight there were two. The first was an outlet pass of literally 93 feet. With his heels on the endline, he heaved a chest pass – a chest pass! – rocketing across the court to Jerebko wide open under the basket. The ball got there so fast Jerebko wasn’t ready and blundered the wide open layup. I don’t know if ten players in the league are capable of making that pass; fewer than that would try it. Then in the game’s closing minutes, Mitchell fought over a screen and used his extreme length to contest a Bradley Beal three so well Beal abandoned the shot and just dropped the ball onto the court, hoping a teammates would pick it up. The young man is certified must watch!
  • Hood continued to deliberately put pressure on the hoop, once again with middling success. But that determination is also what got him tossed for two technicals. The contrast in drives to the hoop between Hood – tall, lanky, and smooth – and Mitchell – compact, both fast and quick, and darting – is striking. When Hood gets bumped he slows down and has to gather himself, and in the process often loses his balance. Moreover, he just doesn’t like it. He doesn’t feel comfortable with contact and easily gets frustrated. When Mitchell feels contact he uses it, pushes against it, and often actually moves faster off the contact, creating separation enough to use his reach to get off a shot. Hood may be able to develop the ability to finish through and in spite of contact. Gordon Hayward, who reacted much like Hood early in his career, developed that skill. But for Mitchell, it’s innate.
  • Finally, for any thinking Favors’s absence on the same night Nikola Mirotic didn’t play is too great a coincidence to buy the explanation of an ankle injury, something to consider:

Utah really needed this victory. Not only does it stop their three-game losing streak, only the latest of several, but it gets them a road win for the first time since December 15th. On Friday against the Hornets on the road, they’ll try to put together their first mini win streak since November turned to December.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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