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The "one-man fast break," they called him.
When it comes to getting from baseline to baseline, few players if any do it as quickly as Washington's All-Star point guard John Wall. Against the Utah Jazz last month in Washington, Wall and the Wizards raced to 34 fast-break points and a lopsided win. So on Friday night in Salt Lake City, slowing down the speedster was a top priority.
While Wall finished with a team-high 24 points to go with nine assists, the Wizards' fast-break attack was more blah than blur in a 114-93 win for the Jazz.
"We really focused on getting back," Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. "We talked about it this morning. We talked about it before the game, [about] showing a wall and not letting John Wall get going."
The Jazz gave up just six fast-break points on Friday, with the first not coming until the 9:13 mark in the fourth quarter when the game was already in hand.
"He's probably the best transition player in the league, end to end," Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood said. "He's very fast. I think we did a good job of five guys getting back."
The Jazz helped their cause by taking better care of the basketball early on. Utah committed seven turnovers in the first half, but allowed the Wizards to covert those into only four points. In the second half, Washington used 11 Jazz turnovers to score six points.
"We got lucky on a couple of them. They missed," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "But especially early in the game, we took better care of the ball and that made it easier for us."
It took until the third quarter before Wall got his first real chance to turn on the jets and show off his blazing speed. Down 11, Washington big man Nene stole the basketball and Wall did what he does best, taking it and darting toward the basket. This time, however, he was met by Jazz forward Trevor Booker, who took a charge to stop the break. A short while later, Jazz center Rudy Gobert blocked a Washington 3-point attempt in transition to keep the fast-break column clean for a while longer.
"It was a team effort," said point guard Shelvin Mack. "We did a great job of trying to make him score in the half court set. It was a group effort. The bigs did a great job of trying to build a wall."
The Wizards didn't score their first fast-break points until 9:13 left in the fourth quarter, when guard Ramon Sessions drove to the rim and was fouled. Wall followed up with a pair of streaking drives to the rim that earned him trips to the free throw line as well.
By that point, it was something the Jazz could live with.
"He did [get going] there late on us a little bit," Hayward said. "But I think that was too little, too late. Overall, it was a good job of us making him and their guys see bodies and not space."