The Washington Post

Wizards continue to flourish vs. West’s best



Perhaps on another night, Donovan Mitchell going for 17 points in the first quarter might’ve made a difference, or at least set a tone. But as Bradley Beal knows, a few good days of rest can do the body wonders — the Washington Wizards’ fivegame winning streak in mid-february followed a game and a few days off for the guard, after all.

Crucially, Beal wasn’t the only one primed to play Monday against the Utah Jazz after missing Saturday’s game in Phoenix with back tightness. Davis Bertans was rested, too, after sitting Saturday while he recovers from a calf strain. And the pair of shooters looked as though they made the most of their time off, returning to spur the Wizards to a 125-121 win that snapped Utah’s streak of 24 straight wins at home.

Washington (20-33) improved its record against the top five teams in the Western Conference to, improbably, 7-2.

Beal led Washington with 34 points on 14-for-31 shooting in 37 minutes — Coach Scott Brooks said before the game that Beal would be on a minutes restrictio­n, but that notion evaporated as the Jazz turned a blowout into a nail-biter in the fourth quarter. The guard received a huge helping hand from Bertans, who had a modest 10 points but a pivotal trio of three-pointers in the third quarter that gave the Wizards a

10-point lead that bloomed into a 19-point cushion early in the fourth quarter.

The gap was wide enough that Utah (an Nba-best 40-14) couldn’t complete its comeback despite coming within two points with 12.3 seconds to play after Beal missed a pair of free throws.

Russell Westbrook, Beal’s backcourt mate, had something to do with that, too. The point guard’s jumper with 32 seconds remaining bumped the Wizards back up to a six-point lead. Beyond that, he notched his fifth straight triple-double, and 23rd of the season, with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists.

Third-string center Daniel Gafford added 15 points, and backup center Robin Lopez had 10 in what amounted to a shootout with the Jazz.

Mitchell led Utah with 42 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added a season-high 33 as Utah soldiered on without two of its top three scorers with Jordan Clarkson (ankle sprain) and Mike Conley (hamstring) out with injuries.

Beal just bested Mitchell in a battle of dueling stars in a tight first half, scoring 23 points with flawless jumpers and one particular­ly spectacula­r reverse layup that evaded center Rudy Gobert’s outstretch­ed hand and helped the Wizards off to a 70- 65 lead heading into the locker room.

Washington took its edge in the second quarter, when Mitchell had just two points after pouring in 17 in the first on 7-for-10 shooting. Beal took over and Isaac Bonga stepped in for Rui Hachimura, who was on the bench with three fouls. Bonga was one of a few critical role players who contribute­d piecemeal minutes that together made a big difference — he and Raul Neto had a three-pointer each, and Lopez had eight points in the paint.

Beal’s scoring haul, while not unusual for the NBA’S leading scorer, was notable given that the guard missed Saturday’s loss at Phoenix with back tightness. He is also managing a hip injury that has caused shooting pain in his right leg, but he didn’t look hampered at all Monday.

 ?? RICK BOWMER/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Bradley Beal, driving around Jazz center Rudy Gobert, led the Wizards with 34 points in 37 minutes.
RICK BOWMER/ASSOCIATED PRESS Bradley Beal, driving around Jazz center Rudy Gobert, led the Wizards with 34 points in 37 minutes.

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