Tonight’s win didn’t come nearly so easily, but the end result was the same as the Jazz took the 128-124 decision to maintain sole possession of the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference despite some injuries to key pieces.
Donovan Mitchell took a whack to the eye in the first quarter and spent the rest of the frame in the locker room. The team announced Mitchell had an eye contusion, but he returned in the second quarter and didn’t skip a beat, scoring 14 points before halftime. He would finish with a game-high 35 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and a block.
Utah’s point guard injury woes continued tonight as Raul Neto took an inadvertent elbow from Ekpe Udoh in the second quarter and received three stitches in his lip. He made a brief return but left the game again and was ruled out with concussion-like symptoms.
Derrick Favors was also ruled out with back spasms after a strong start to his night. In nine minutes he had 6 points and 3 rebounds.
Jae Crowder was able to minimize the effect of Favors missing most of the game with a hot shooting night. He was 4-of-5 from three and 6-of-7 overall for 18 points.
The Wizards certainly played better than their record would indicate, but the Jazz defense was also not up to par as Washington got an above-average amount of open shots. They took advantage of the opportunity, hitting 15 three-point shots and making Rudy Gobert an unusual team-low -16 in 35 minutes on the floor.
Rudy would get the last laugh, however, as he completed a key 3-point play and had several Stifle Tower-ish defensive possessions in the last few minutes of the close game to help the Jazz to the win. He topped it off with a block behind the arc to slam the door.
For Washington, it was Beal and Bobby Portis doing the damage. The two combined for 62 points on the night. Portis showcased his range, hitting 6 of his 11 three-point attempts en route to a 28 point, 13 rebound performance. He also added 4 steals, 3 assists and a block.
Beal was just 2-of-7 from long range, but made up for that going 11-of-18 inside the arc and finishing with 34 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. He played 39 minutes after being a game-time decision.
The Jazz will return to the court April 1 as they host the Charlotte Hornets, who are fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Keep an eye on Favors’ and Neto’s statuses as the Jazz could certainly use them down the stretch.