The Utah Jazz continue to surge at Vivint Arena, where they have not lost a game since New Year’s Eve. With Saturday’s win over Sacramento the Jazz have now won 24 games in a row at home.
Getting to 25 might be more difficult than the standings would suggest.
Though the Washington Wizards enter Monday night’s game in Salt Lake City near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and not in a playoff position, they are one of the few teams in the NBA that have beaten the league-leading Jazz this season.
It took a 43-point night by the NBA’s top scorer, Bradley Beal, and a 35-point, 15-rebound, 13-assist triple-double by Russell Westbrook — and, perhaps most important, an off night by Utah — but the Wizards managed to defeat the Jazz 131-122 in Washington on March 18.
It was the Wizards’ first win over the Jazz in 10 tries.
“We’re playing against the best team in basketball,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said at the time. “Our antennas were up. We’ve got to do that every night.”
It would help the Wizards’ cause if Beal is able to go. He sat out their 134-106 blowout loss at Phoenix on Saturday because of back tightness, and although Brooks expressed confidence that “he’ll be back against Utah,” he added notably, “that’s the hope.”
Donovan Mitchell, who has scored 35 or more in three successive games for the Jazz, scored 42 last month in Washington and Joe Ingles posted a 34-point career-high night, but the Jazz’s defense was uncharacteristically shabby and its offense didn’t get the job done in a high-scoring contest.
“The urgency that we have on defense needs to improve,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder, whose team was going through a mid-season rough patch when they last played.
Mitchell said teams were playing the Jazz more physical at the time. “I think they just wanted it more.”
The Jazz didn’t sulk over the loss, though. They picked themselves up and started a nine-game winning streak in their next outing and have now won 11 of 13. Some of those have been impressive wins, and others, like the much-closer-than-it-looks 128-112 win over the Kings on Saturday, have just been grind-em-out victories that elite teams seem to get.
“It was ugly, and I didn’t shoot the ball well,” Mitchell after he made only 12 of 31 shots Saturday, but made 15 of 17 free throws in scoring his 42 points. “We made a few mistakes defensively and a bunch of mistakes offensively, as we were kind of stagnant. But the team that we want to be in July wins games like this.”
The Wizards dropped three in a row after their big win over Utah and are just 4-8 since then. They’re 2-2 on a road trip that began with two games in Florida against Toronto in Tampa, and Orlando before heading West for games against Golden State, Phoenix, Utah and Sacramento.
Former Jazz guard Raul Neto led Washington with a career-high 24 points against Phoenix.
For Utah, Jordan Clarkson’s status is uncertain. The Jazz’s valuable sixth man has missed two games with an ankle sprain.
–Field Level Media