Wizards open themselves up to criticism with lackluster performance against Jazz - EntornoInteligente

Entornointeligente.com / By Roman Stubbs Roman Stubbs Reporter covering University of Maryland athletics and national college sports Email Bio Follow March 18 at 9:41 PM The crowd at Capital One Arena had grown so quietly disinterested in the Washington Wizards’ 116-95 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday night that a few hecklers in section 108 were perfectly audible in their taunts of the home team during an embarrassing third quarter. They called out Wizards Coach Scott Brooks by name on loop as the Jazz took a commanding lead, and soon a few Wizards players were looking to the crowd to locate who the dissenters were.

“My ears are fine, so you can hear,” Wizards guard Tomas Satoransky said. “You’re trying to stay focused. You have to ignore it when you’re in the game.”

This much the Wizards can’t ignore: Their chances to make a postseason run are quickly fading. Washington (30-41) hasn’t been mathematically eliminated from making the NBA playoffs, but this latest setback felt like a devastating and demoralizing blow and left them 4½ games out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 11 games remaining.

The Wizards had entered the night with an already razor-slim margin of error and in need of serious help to make a late run at the postseason. But a healthy crowd still showed up to watch the Wizards against one the league’s most talented teams in the Jazz, which is clinging to its own playoff position in the West.

The gulf between the teams could not have been more apparent. It began on the defensive end — Washington had scored at least 121 points in five of its past eight games — but the Jazz (41-29) bottled up Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who entered Monday with back-to-back 40-point games but shot just 4 for 12 from the field to finish with 15 points.

“They face-guarded me the whole game. I’m not going to score 40 points every night,” Beal said. “Everybody knows that. I hope we don’t have that expectation, because I’m not Superman.”

[ Bradley Beal has all-NBA credentials, but one thing’s missing: Team success. ]

Utah was also superior in the paint, earning a 41-34 rebounding advantage and getting stellar rim protection from center Rudy Gobert. On the other end, the Jazz used its balance to run circles around Washington’s defense, finishing with 49 made field goals on 35 assists. That included 14 three-pointers, with five triples in the third quarter alone to open up a 20-point lead.

“They know where each player is on the floor and they play in defined roles. So it’s kind of hard stopping it, preventing it, because they’ve been doing it together for so, so long,” said Wizards forward Jabari Parker, who came off the bench and scored a team-high 19 points.

But it was Utah’s defense that bothered Washington the most. Aside from Beal’s issues, the Wizards looked discombobulated on the offensive end and committed 16 turnovers. It was outscored 58-40 in the paint and made just 8 of 27 (29 percent) from three-point range.

“A lot of it was their defense. We have to give credit where it’s due. They’re one of the toughest teams to play against,” Satoransky said.

It was one of the most lackluster performances in weeks for the Wizards, who had won six of their past 10 games and three of their previous four during this homestand. Despite Beal’s early struggles — he missed five of his six shots in the first half, including all three of his three-point attempts — Washington’s Trevor Ariza made his first four shots and the Wizards had pieced together enough offense in the first two quarters to remain within 57-45 at halftime.

But just as so many of the league’s top teams have done in this building this season, Utah exposed Washington’s inconsistency on the defensive end and took firm control by the early stages of the third quarter. After the Wizards had pulled within 67-58 with 8:50 remaining in the quarter, Utah outscored Washington 24-13 the rest of the period to take a 91-71 lead into the fourth. While Jazz forward Joe Ingles pestered Beal with relentless face-guarding, he also finished with 16 points and helped spark an offensive burst by the Jazz in the second half.

Ingles and Donovan Mitchell (19 points) made back-to-back three-pointers at one point early in the third quarter. Then came a dunk from Gobert and five straight points from forward Jae Crowder (18 points), and later Mitchell finished an alley-oop dunk on an assist from point guard Ricky Rubio (10 assists) to make it 79-60.

Beal, who earlier in the day had been named the Eastern Conference player of the week, did not play in the fourth quarter. He sat with his feet in an ice tub in the locker room afterward, shaking his head about how much of a slog his night was. Beal hadn’t been face-guarded like this since high school, he said. After his team suffered its most humbling loss in weeks, one that put another serious dent in its playoff hopes, Brooks defended his star.

“He’s a champion,” Brooks said of Beal. “He’ll come back and bounce back the next night and play better.”

LINK ORIGINAL: Washington Post

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