WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Utah Jazz 123-98 on Saturday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...
An ugly one
Though the Wizards barely scraped out a win over the Pistons on Wednesday, they had to start somewhere and the hope was they could build some momentum going home for a brief stop before an upcoming six-game road trip. The positive momentum, however, did not last as they were demolished at home by the Utah Jazz on Saturday night in a blowout loss that saw them get outscored 73-47 in the second half.
The Wizards actually led 51-50 at halftime, but after that, their offense disappeared. They shot 3-for-14 from three-point range in the second half and 6-for-11 from the free-throw line. It was not pretty.
The Jazz won by 25 points, tying the Wizards' worst loss of the season, as the benches emptied with just under three minutes to go. The Wizards have now lost nine of their last 14 games. They are 15-12 on the year.
Punished in the paint
The Wizards are a relatively small team at the center position with no player on their roster taller than 6-foot-10. The Jazz, meanwhile, have two giants in the middle with Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. While the Wizards have found ways to mitigate their size disadvantage in several games this season, that was not the case in this one.
Both of those guys had big nights with Gobert posting a stat-line of 20 points (9-10 FG) and 11 rebounds and Whiteside adding 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. Utah found them in the pick-and-roll over and over and the Wizards just had no answer for it. Both Daniel Gafford and Montrezl Harrell got off to strong starts scoring the ball, but seemed to get thrown off after they were pushed around on defense. Harrell, in particular, was having major trouble.
The Jazz ended up with 68 points in the paint. The Wizards either need to find a way to overcome their lack of size - perhaps with small-ball lineups that actually work - or they may need to address it when the trade deadline nears.
Mitchell was unstoppable
Back in March, we saw an epic duel of star shooting guards between Bradley Beal and Donovan Mitchell, where each guy scored 40-plus points. This time, it was the Mitchell show, as he got going early and found little resistance from the Wizards' defense.
Mitchell had a big game with 28 points on 10-for-20 shooting from the field and 4-for-9 from three. He was lighting them up from long range, while also bullying his way to the rim. There wasn't a ton of the shifty, crafty stuff he's usually good for in the paint. Against the Wizards, he just used pure strength to power through and around Wizards guards. Beal, meanwhile, scored 21 points and shot 9-for-19, but had six turnovers.
Bertans and Kispert
The way Davis Bertans and Corey Kispert started out on Saturday night was how the Wizards' front office probably hoped things would go this season. Each of them hit their first two threes, marking the first game this season both of them made multiple shots from long range.
It was a glimpse at what could be if things start going according to plan, as the Wizards have struggled mightily from long range this season in part because those guys have been cold. But unfortunately, it was short-lived, as those two combined to go 0-for-3 after that 4-for-4 start. So, not only did they not make threes, they didn't take many more of them.
Credit to the Jazz for their defense, but the Wizards didn't exactly force the issue. One would think ideally they could ride the hot hand(s), but that wasn't the case.
Kuzma is in protocol
The Wizards were playing without starting power forward Kyle Kuzma, who entered health and safety protocol Saturday afternoon due to a positive Covid-19 test. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. indicated a false positive has been ruled out, so he may end up missing some time. It is unclear whether he is vaccinated, as Kuzma declined to say when asked on media day, citing personal reasons.
With Kuzma out, the Wizards started Deni Avdija in his place. Avdija played okay with four points and six rebounds. He shot 2-for-6 from the field and blocked two shots. His best play was a transition assist in the first half. He charged down on the fastbreak, dribbled behind his back and flipped a left-handed pass to Harrell under the hoop for an and-1.