Gobert, Hayward power Jazz to 95-88 win over Wizards
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
By KAREEM COPELAND
AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz have made major progress since last season, and they showed it off against the playoff-bound Washington Wizards on Friday night.
Gobert had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Gordon Hayward scored 19 points and the Jazz stifled the Wizards in a 95-88 victory.
The Jazz often struggled to win close games a year ago, but now, there's no panic when faced with a tight finish.
"We're just confident in our ability to win games," Gobert said. "When we lose a game, we don't get too low. We know why. We just work on it and we come back the next game and are better."
The teams traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter. There were six ties, and neither team led by more than four until the final 33 seconds.
Hayward got hot late after struggling much of the night and led an 11-4 run that gave the Jazz an 85-80 edge. Washington never led again, and Bradley Beal's turnover with 35 seconds left allowed Utah to close out the game from the free-throw line.
Hayward scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and also had seven rebounds and four assists for the night.
"I pulled him out a couple times just to settle him," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "I wasn't taking him out for rest. I was taking him out to just collect himself because he was struggling a little bit offensively.
"He's still coming back from the knee (injury). Since that happened, he hasn't quite had the same juice. He's said he's not going to let that get in the way from competing.
Beal led Washington with 27 points and John Wall added 16.
Gobert repeatedly disrupted the dangerous Wizards offense that had been held to under 100 points just once in the previous 18 games. He finished with three blocks.
Both teams felt the officials allowed a lot of contact.
"It was a physical game, an old-school basketball game," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "They shot a lot more free throws than us and that's the difference in the game. They were a big-time plus on the free-throw line, but that's what playoff basketball is."
Wizards: Wall entered having made 14-plus field goals in three straight games but saw the streak end.
The Jazz remain in the No. 4 slot in the Western Conference with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Clippers with six games remaining.
The Wizards fell into a tie with Toronto for the No. 3 seed in the East.
"I haven't been saying nothing to the refs lately because I know what situation I've been in, but the way they've been officiating today doesn't make no sense," said Wall, who received a technical foul in the third quarter after making contact with Gobert around the belt. "You shoot 31 free throws to 16. We're an aggressive team that attacks the basket. That don't make no sense. I had to get (my arm) bandaged up because I'm bleeding and the ref tells me that's not a foul. It's getting out of hand.
"We didn't lose this game. The refs made us lose this game. We fought hard to give ourselves a chance. But you don't shoot 31 free throws to 16 the way we attack the basket as a team. That's how I feel about it."
The Jazz were without Derrick Favors (knee), George Hill (groin) and Raul Neto (groin) as the team continues to be plagued by injuries. Utah has lost 148 player games due to injury or illness while Favors and Hill have missed 29 games apiece.
Wizards: Washington travels to face Steph Curry and the Western Conference's top team in the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
Jazz: Utah travels to face MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
Updated April 1, 2017