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Washington, D.C. • Gordon Hayward simply closed the door.
The 24 point third quarter lead had melted considerably as the Washington Wizards made a late-game run at the Utah Jazz. The Verizon Center's decibel level was as high as it gets and concerns of a Wizards rally were real as Washington pulled within six.
Then Hayward hit the two biggest shots of the game, sealing Utah's 102-92 Sunday afternoon win. First came a dagger 3-pointer from the top of the key, a shot that made Wizards coach Scott Brooks pound the scorers table with his fist. The second was a filthy step-back jumper, giving the Jazz a 100-89 lead, as Hayward turned to the Washington bench and added a few choice words on his way down the floor.
Brooks called timeout, and 19,648 people streamed towards the exits.
"That's why he's an All-Star," Utah point guard George Hill said. "Everyone feeds off of him and everyone is just waiting for opportunities to make big plays. And big-time players make big plays in big situations."
Hayward took over the game when it counted, something he's struggled with in past seasons. But the Jazz, collectively, made sure Sunday represented a complete team win.
For three quarters, Utah played perhaps its best overall defensive game of the season. The potent Washington backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal scored 23 and 22 points, respectively. But the Jazz made life difficult for both. They found a way to shut off Wall's penetration to the basket. They hounded Beal off screens, and made sure he took tough shots.
Both got hot in the fourth quarter. But by then, the Jazz were well on their way to their 37th win of the season. At its peak, Utah's lead ballooned to 70-46 in the third quarter. Washington led 14-10 in the middle of the first quarter, then the Jazz scored six straight, regained the lead and never trailed after that. The Wizards shot 42 percent from the field, and the Jazz finished the game with a whopping 52-27 rebounding advantage.
"They had physicality and we didn't," Brooks said. "We let them run their offense without any resistance. When you do that, they are going to score some points on you. They have really good players and they move you around. We just didn't do a good enough job of being physical tonight."
Defensively, Jazz center Rudy Gobert had a lot to do with Utah's dominance, scoring 15 points and grabbing 20 rebounds to go along with four blocked shots. He consistently shut down the middle, forcing Washington players out to the perimeter, where Hill and Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles were suffocating with their pressure.
Offensively, the Jazz turned the ball over too much (24 times). Other than that quibble, they were efficient, placing all five starters in double-figures. Hayward led the way with a game-high 30. Hill scored 21 and handed out six assists. Hood and Derrick Favors scored 11 and 10, respectively.
"Most of the stat sheet looks good tonight," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "The one, the turnover thing, isn't as good. For us, we came to play and this is a tough place to play."
Indeed, the Jazz defeated one of the best home teams in the league, Sunday. Washington entered the matchup with a 24-7 record at the Verizon Center, but the Jazz were able to win with relative ease.
Like Utah did with Milwaukee, the Jazz realized Beal and Wall were going to score and make plays. But they limited the role players. Markieff Morris was held to seven points. Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter scored six points each.
Utah moves to 37-22 on the season, and 2-0 on its current road trip. The Jazz maintain their tenuous hold on the fourth spot in the Western Conference.
"This is how we want to play," Hill said. "After the All-Star break, you want to be that team that gets better, so that is the focus in our heads. Hopefully, we can get on a nice run before the playoffs."
R The Jazz score 48 points in the paint.
• Utah leads by as much as 24 points.
• The Jazz finish a three-game road trip Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
More coverage • Former Jazz guard Trey Burke improves his shooting while backing up John Wall in Washington. > B4