Reeling Wizards can't challenge Jazz
Thanks to a schedule that didn't call for them to play in the first 60-plus games, the Jazz never saw the Washington Wizards team of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler that made all the wrong headlines in the NBA this season.
By the time they arrived at EnergySolutions Arena for Monday's game, the Wizards' season long ago had been lost to guns, guilty pleas and recklessness, leaving Andray Blatche, Al Thornton, Mike Miller and others to pick up the pieces.
The Jazz took full advantage of a team in free fall, dismantling Washington 65-35 in the middle two quarters on the way to a 112-89 thrashing, leading by as many as 34 points in sending the Wizards to their eighth consecutive loss.
"It's tough on this team with all the stuff you can imagine that they've gone through and they're still playing," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of the Wizards. "They've had a lot of tough things to overcome but they're trying to put their team back together."
Carlos Boozer totaled 23 points, Deron Williams had 17 points and 11 assists and Mehmet Okur delivered 14 points playing through a bad back. All 10 Jazz players in uniform scored, including a season-high 15 from Sundiata Gaines.
"We're not going to take any more teams lightly," Boozer said. "We did a bad job of that earlier on in the season where we would get up for the good games or the tough matchups and we wouldn't be up for the teams we're 'supposed to beat,' quote unquote."
After falling at Milwaukee and Oklahoma City to close their four-game trip, the Jazz stopped their losing streak cold. "I didn't know what kind of energy we would have," Sloan said. "We played five games in seven days and it was good to see our energy level real high."
The Wizards shot 30 percent through three quarters and went 3-for-22 in the third quarter. More than who was in the lineup for Washington, though, what made an impression on the Jazz was who no longer was with them.
"It's weird not to see those guys out there for that team," Boozer said. "We've seen them for so many years, Antawn having big games, Gilbert having big games, Caron having big games. Now you're getting guys other opportunities that haven't been able to play."
The Wizards' season effectively ended Dec. 21 when Arenas and Javaris Crittenton brandished guns in a locker-room confrontation. The resulting fallout consumed the NBA, with the two suspended for the season by commissioner David Stern in January.
After trading Jamison and Butler last month, the Wizards attempted to fast-track their rebuilding process. Their starting five Monday featured Blatche, Thornton, Miller, JaVale McGee and Shaun Livingston. Blatche led with 24 points while Miller had 14.
"It's good to come in and a put a team like this away," said Williams, who wore a padded compression shirt for his ailing shoulder and fell hard on his back trying to drive for a layup in the closing seconds of the third quarter.
"You always see the teams that aren't in the playoffs, they play free, they have no worries. For us to come out and play the way we did tonight, it was good, especially on the second end of a back-to-back."
Okur returned after sitting out Sunday in Oklahoma City with back spasms and dunked off a C.J. Miles' pass only 15 seconds in. He ran for a layup on the break, hit a three-pointer and blocked two Thornton shots all in the first quarter.
The Jazz turned defense into offense twice in the opening 12 minutes. Wesley Matthews and Williams hounded Randy Foye into a turnover with Matthews hitting Williams with a behind-the-back pass on the break for a layup.
Boozer and Williams returned for the final 5:36 of the second quarter and pushed the Jazz to a 59-45 halftime lead. Boozer had a follow-up dunk, flashed open at the foul line and blew past McGee for a layup and delivered a three-point play on Blatche.
The Jazz stretched their lead to 34 in the third quarter as Williams flipped between-the-legs and no-look passes to Okur for long jumpers. Boozer had a three-point play and Williams drove for a three-point play after Blatche dunked and was called for a taunting technical.
"Those are three All-Stars," Williams said of the missing Arenas, Jamison and Butler. "You can tell there's some things going on over there, but they've still got a lot of young talent on their team. McGee and Blatche are going to be good in this league for a while."
IN SHORT » The Jazz extend the Wizards' misery this season, blowing them away in the second and third quarters.
KEY MOMENT » Carlos Boozer scores nine points in the final 5:36 of the second quarter to help give the Jazz a 14-point halftime lead.