In their quest for an Eastern Conference playoff berth, the Washington Wizards took a detour Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
After building a 13-point lead in the first half, Washington’s up-tempo offense slowed to a scrawl during a 104-101 loss to Utah.
“We were running in mud [for] half the game, in my opinion,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “... We walked the ball up more tonight than we probably have all season. We wouldn’t commit ourselves to our pace.”
A key stretch of this game came at the start of the fourth quarter, when the Jazz converted four straight possessions and used an 8-0 run to snap a 77-77 tie.
The Wizards played from behind the rest of the way and never regained the lead. They missed three 3-pointers in the final minute that would have tied the game.
“We stopped playing our style of basketball,” said Trevor Ariza, “and we started playing theirs. They took advantage of that. ...
“We came out lackadaisical in the second half. We stopped playing our pace. We started to let them control the game. Everything changed.”
Ariza led Washington, which was coming off an emotional 101-95 win at Phoenix on Friday night, with 23 points. He was 6-for-10 from the 3-point line.
Asked if the Wizards were tired, Ariza said, “No, that had nothing to do with the way we played. It doesn’t matter. This is our job. We love to do it. So that’s not an excuse. We have to come out and play our style of basketball for as close to 48 minutes as possible.”
The loss dropped Washington to 21-22 this season heading into a game Tuesday night at Golden State.