Phoenix--With two wins to start this five-game road trip, the Wizards can report progress. After a 114-100 loss in the trips third game on Friday in Utah, the Wizards are dealing with a dose of reality that needs to serve as motivation.
Before the game against the Jazz head coach Randy Wittman talked about the chance to do something special. Wittman was referring to the team clinching its first winnings five-game road trip since 2005 and then hitting the All-Star break with some momentum. That opportunity still exists with a game here tomorrow against the Suns and then home Wednesday to play the Kings.
Still its hard not to glance back and feel like Friday was an opportunity lost for the Wizards. Like the Wizards, Utah is young. More than half of the Jazzs players are under the age of 26. Like the Wizards, the Jazz has been inconsistent and had its fragile confidence put to the test on almost a nightly basis this season.
A competitive loss Wednesday to the Clippers and a spirited practice on Thursday in Salt Lake City, had given the Wizards every reason to believe that they could extend their winning streak. Instead the Jazz scored 100 points in the first three quarters for the first time in a year. It was the first time in seven games that the Jazz had even scored 100 points in a game this season.
They came out and got everything they wanted. In the first quarter we gave up 11 fast break points, noted a clearly angry John Wall. They got whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. We werent getting back, taking tough shots and not playing any defense. We gave up 100 points in the first three quarters for the first time all year. To give up 100 points in three quarters is unnecessary.
A year earlier the Wizards dented the Jazzs playoff hopes with a 100-95 overtime win that had elicited a chorus of boos from the usually supportive Utah fans. This time Al Jefferson took over the game and the Wizards had no answer. Jefferson scored a season-high 34 points and certainly would have threatened his career-high of 40 points had the game been closer.
Over the final 5:41 of the second quarter, Jefferson scored 16 points including 14 consecutive points. Jefferson used his strength and finesse to pile up the points. Jeffersons quick release limited JaVale McGees ability to block his shot and reserve Kevin Seraphin also struggled to deal with him.
Where he (Jefferson) was catching the ball, you couldnt double him, Wittman noted. We didnt have any fight against him in the first half. He caught and did whatever he wanted to do with the ball. And we didnt really seem to let it bother us in that first half. I coached that guy so I know what he can do and tried to tell JaVale youve got to fight.
McGee has had problems before with centers that like Jefferson are stronger and more physical. Now McGee must move on and not lose confidence. For the first time in his career McGee scored at least 18 points in four consecutive games. It was a run that ended Friday when McGee scored 15 points on 7 of 14 shooting from the field, but overall his shot selection has been better.
In short on this Wizards journey, its important for this team to take the good, learn from the bad, and hope for the best.