A solid stretch – particularly away from home – has helped the Washington Wizards reach .500 once again.
They’ll seek their ninth road victory in 11 tries Saturday night against the Utah Jazz as they again look to get over the break-even mark for the first time in more than four years.
The Wizards (21-21) have won five of seven overall, but the two defeats during that run have come when they’ve had a chance to get over .500 for the first time since starting the 2009-10 season 2-1.
Counting the first game of each campaign since, Washington has failed in its last nine attempts to get above .500. It earned another shot by opening a four-road-games-in-five-nights stretch with a 101-95 win over Phoenix on Friday.
Trevor Ariza scored 23 points, while John Wall added 18 and 12 assists. Bradley Beal, who finished with 17 points, hit two crucial shots down the stretch.
”I knew that eventually the ball was going to come my way and I just stayed ready,” Beal said. ”I just stayed with it and stayed confident.”
Washington has allowed fewer than 100 points in its last 10 victories.
”When we press up defensively and get stops, it ignites our offense," Ariza said. "It’s what gets me going. When we play good defense, we’re a good team."
The Wizards, though, have dropped six of their last seven trips to Utah and have lost three straight overall to the Jazz, who own the worst record in the Western Conference.
Utah (14-29) is coming off back-to-back losses to Minnesota, falling 98-72 on Saturday and 112-97 at home on Tuesday. Gordon Hayward returned after missing five games with a hip injury and scored 27 points – his exact average over the last four contests he’s played.
The Jazz had a three-day break between games that could be viewed as an opportunity for some rest, but coach Tyrone Corbin hopes his team can stay sharp after the time off.
"We’ve been playing so frequently that we had a rhythm of playing games," Corbin said. "Now you shut that down for awhile, so you can get off base a little bit because you were used to such a rhythm. We have to make sure when the games come up that we can get back to the pace the game is."
Wall likely will try to push the pace for Washington, and Jazz rookie Trey Burke will be tasked with trying to slow down his counterpart.
"I watched him a lot in college," Burke said. "I’ve never played against him, but I know how explosive he is as a point guard and how aggressive he is. I have to just go out there and play him for 48 minutes."
Utah was missing an inside presence in its last contest as Derrick Favors sat out with a hip injury. Corbin said he’s questionable for this contest but hopes he’ll be healthy enough to go.
Burke realizes how important Favors, who averages 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds, is to the Jazz.
"He’s kind of like our line of defense," Burke said. "He’s the guy who protects the bucket, so it’s tough when he’s not in there."
Corbin hopes his team can bounce back no matter who is on the floor.
"We’ve got to make sure we realize it was just those two games, and we’ve got to pick it up from here and go finish these last nine games before the (All-Star) break," Corbin said.