On Thursday night, the Washington Wizards got somewhat of a feel for what it’s like to be the Utah Jazz, who will be in town Saturday for an interesting matchup. The Wizards enjoyed a similar result, too.
Playing without a couple of key players, the Wizards survived and thrived en route to a 113-105 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Kyle Kuzma scored 36 points to lead the way for Washington, which was without Bradley Beal (health and safety protocol) and Kristaps Porzingis (left groin strain).
The Wizards even overcame an early 14-point deficit in the impressive and somewhat unexpected win.
“It’s a character win, it’s a gutsy win, however you want to characterize it,” Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Never ideal to be down a few players, especially two guys that really do a lot for you offensively.”
This marked just the second time this season that the Wizards won consecutive games. Overall, it’s been somewhat of a ho-hum start to the season as Washington has split its first dozen outings.
Kuzma hit 14 of 26 shots, including going 5 for 11 from 3-point range, while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out six assists in his best overall performance of the season. The former University of Utah player is averaging 18.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
“I just got a good rhythm right from the jump,” Kuzma said. “I just really just set my intentions on the night of just trying to be aggressive, trying to score first and then find my teammates second.”
Beal has cleared protocol but will still sit out Saturday’s game. Porzingis has been upgraded to probable.
Surprisingly, the Jazz became the first NBA team to reach the 10-win mark in their first game of this Eastern road trip — and that’s despite the fact that they traded away stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert while replacing former coach Quin Snyder with Will Hardy during an eventful offseason.
Utah’s 125-119 win at Atlanta on Wednesday night was one of the Western Conference leader’s most impressive outcomes.
Lauri Markkanen continued his rise to stardom with a season-high 32 points. His night included six 3-pointers. Jordan Clarkson put together his fifth straight game with at least 20 points by scoring 23, and Malik Beasley drained six 3s to score 18.
Utah surprised Atlanta by shooting 17 of 39 from 3-point range. The Hawks had been leading the league in 3-point defense, limiting previous opponents to 32.6 percent from deep.
“That’s kind of our thing,” Markkanen said. “We keep the ball popping and everybody is having fun. Just keep having fun. Keep knocking them down.”
Utah coughed up a 15-point lead and then outscored Atlanta 40-29 in the fourth quarter to pick up a fourth consecutive victory. It kept the new-look Jazz atop the West standings when many people figured they’d reside at the bottom because of the large roster overhaul.
The Jazz just keep doing what it takes to win games — and to beat teams that have been favored.
“We’ve talked a bunch as a team that every game, especially road games is going to present you with moments that are not going your way,” Hardy told KSL.com. “The other team goes on a run and the crowd gets into the game and you have to find a way to recenter yourself and stick together.”
–Field Level Media