Dominant 2nd quarter spurs Wizards past Jazz in OT, to 2nd road win

Washington Wizards' John Wall drives to the basket against the Utah Jazz during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Salt Lake City, Monday, March 28, 2011. Wall had 24 points in the first half.

(AP photo/George Frey)

John Wall scored 24 points on 11 shots in the 1st half and led the Wizards to their second road win of the season, as they outlasted the Utah Jazz 100-95 in over-time. Al Jefferson led the Jazz with 15 points and 16 rebounds.

Wall carried Washington early as he made five of their only seven 1st quarter field goals and assisted on one other, and the Wizards trailed the Jazz 16-21 after one.

Aside from Wall’s brilliance, most who saw this game will talk about the OT period, because, they will say, that’s when the game was won. You may also hear about Jordan Crawford’s big shot to send it into overtime or his steals in the extra period, John Wall’s big free-throws, or maybe even Maurice Evans’ big shot, all in overtime. But I’m here to tell you that the only reason the Wizards even made it to OT, was because of their outstanding 2nd quarter, which lead to a 51-43 halftime lead.

I’m not sure it can be overstated how much that quarter stood above the rest. Because the Wizards led for much of the 2nd and 3rd quarters, it may seem as if they played well for most of the game, and then fell apart late as they needed a last-second shot just to force overtime. To be true, Utah did use a zone to confound Washington in the 4th quarter, causing them to nearly fumble away the game. But the reality is that Wizards played bad for most of the game, and it was their aforementioned 2nd quarter that propped them up for a chance to win the game in OT. Check it out.

For comparison’s sake, here were the Jazz’ point totals per quarter: 21, 22, 20, 20; they weren’t particularly better or worse in any one part of the game than the other. It was the Wizards, however, who proved to be up-and-down.

In their crucial 2nd quarter, the rest of the Wizards joined Wall to submit an incredibly efficient offensive effort, establishing a margin that allowed them to get to and persevere in OT. The team combined to score nearly two points per possession, missed only 5 shots to shoot a scorching 72%, and scored 35 points on their 18 shots in 22 possessions in the quarter. Offensive efficiency like that (159 points per 100 possessions) would likely allow them to cruise to an easy win, if carried out through an entire game.

Alas, in the game’s 1st, 3rd, and 4th quarters, Washington scored 16, 22, and 12 points respectively, shot 31% overall (23-74 FG), and never came within 13 points of their 2nd quarter total, even though they took at least 3 more shots in each quarter. The 4th quarter was particularly sad as they proved unable to solve Utah’s zone, they failed to make as many shots as the missed in their torrid 2nd quarter, shot 5-22, turned the ball over six times, and committed 7 personal fouls (with Yi Jianlian fouling out in the period).

Give the Wizards credit for playing hard, if not particularly well, on defense, for taking care of the ball for the 3rd straight game (only 12 turnovers), and playing the Jazz to a draw on the boards. These all contributed to the win as well. Give McGee credit, too, for his 17 rebounds, and give Wall credit for his amazing first half. And although the Jazz zone nearly did the Wizards in, give Jordan Crawford credit for hitting an amazing last-second, fade-away jumper over Jazz rookie Gordan Hayward to send the game into OT.

The Jazz were without newly acquired point guard, Devin Harris, and jack-of-all-trades and defensive ace, Andrei Kirilenko. They missed a ton of open shots themselves (7-24 from 3PT and even more close in), and they never seemed to really want to win this game; to say nothing of giving heavy minutes to Ronnie Price and Earl Watson (out of necessity, but still).

The Wizards rebounded well from their 4th quarter troubles, and made some big plays to rather comfortably win in overtime. Utltimately, though, it was some great play in the beginning that proved to be the difference for the Wizards. Although it didn’t last long, in this game, against these Jazz, playing great for one quarter was enough.

 

Game notes:
This was the 4th straight game in which JaVale McGee had 13 or more rebounds, the first time he’s done that in his career, according to Michael Lee of the Washington Post…McGee had a poor shooting night though, as he shot seemingly every time he touched the ball – most of them ill-advised attempts – and finished 4-12 on the game…Wall cooled off after his hot start to miss all 9 of his attempts in the 2nd half. He finished with 28 points by hitting four free-throws to help seal the win in OT…Still it was good to see him in the first half when he knew that no one on the Jazz could stay in front of him on the break, and he attacked the paint and got good shots up…I mentioned the Jazz poor shooting, but the Wizards shot 6-26 from 3 for 23 %.

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