Washington • Not even the Jazz could lose to the Washington Wizards.
Despite scoring fewer points than they had in any game this season, committing 19 turnovers and falling behind by double digits before making their first basket, the Jazz were no match for the Wizards when it came to futility on Saturday, winning 83-76 in a game that was as ugly as it was satisfying.
“Fortunate,” was Paul Millsap’s best description for the Jazz. “Any team’s capable of beating you, especially at home.”
That maxim even includes the Wizards.
The Jazz (5-6) gave the NBA’s last winless team hope throughout, spotting Washington (0-8) a 13-point first quarter lead and falling behind by eight after erasing the previous deficit.
“We didn’t play our best basketball,” coach Tyrone Corbin said.
But the Jazz pieced together a solid fourth quarter. They finally closed a game with some energy, snapped a two-game losing streak and evened their record on the now-concluded East Coast road trip at 2-2.
Al Jefferson led all scorers with 21 points. After scoring just four points in the first half, Jefferson scored 17 in the third quarter as the Jazz’s quarter included a an 11-2 run that put them up 80-69.
“We couldn’t afford to start that third quarter off like [the first half],” Jefferson said. “We were down two [40-38] at the half and I just had to get it going, make some shots.”
The uncertainties of a winless team were what concerned coach Tyrone Corbin the most.
“We can’t look at their record and think we’re going to come in here and get it,” Corbin said. “We had to play, and they showed that in the first half.”
Concerned about his team’s propensity for poor starts, Corbin started Derrick Favors and Randy Foye in place of Marvin Williams and Gordon Hayward. The “big” lineup, so effective earlier on the road trip, was disastrous for the Jazz. With six minutes gone in the first quarter, they trailed 15-2.
“Nothing worked at the beginning of the game,” Millsap said.
Corbin inserted Hayward midway through the first quarter. The guard, who came off the bench eight times last season, flourished. He scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half.
“We were able to get the ball in his hands and he made plays in that second quarter especially,” Corbin said. “He was more aggressive and that’s what I wanted to see. He helped us hang in there when things weren’t going well.”
An alley-oop from Mo Williams to Hayward in the second quarter put the Jazz up 27-23, their largest lead of the first half.
The Jazz still have plenty of issues to work out, and they aren’t erased by a win, and Corbin’s postgame assessment was far from an endorsement.
“I don’t think defensively we’re on the same page,” Corbin said. “Offensively, we didn’t get the ball where we wanted. It’s the last game of a four-game road trip and you’re typically low on energy. We played last night, but we just didn’t execute on either end of the floor as well I thought we would.”
But for the Jazz, there was a renewed sense of optimism in the locker room. Splitting the road trip took frantic overtime heroics in Toronto and a sloppy one in Washington in which they were out-slopped. But the Jazz, who return to Salt Lake City for two home games this week, believe they can build on it.
“We wish we could have won some more games,” Favors said, “but two out of four is not that bad.”
Storylines Jazz 83, Wizards 76
R The Jazz overcome another slow start to keep the Wizards winless.
• Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson all record 10 or more rebounds as the Jazz outboard Washington 60-44.
• The Jazz go 2-2 on their East Coast road trip and are 5-6 overall.