SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – An eye injury forced Donovan Mitchell to spend much of the first quarter in the locker room. His vision seemed better than ever when he returned.
Mitchell scored 35 points made many more big plays to lead the Utah Jazz to a 128-124 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night, their 9th victory in their last 10 games.
”I thought he attacked and that’s what we needed him to do,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
Mitchell offered a snapshot of what he would do all night during the second quarter. After checking back into the game, he hit all six of his shots and scored 14 points in the quarter to keep Utah a step ahead of Washington before halftime.
”I could see well enough to shoot,” Mitchell joked. ”I could see. I was fine. Just got to play through things.”
Joe Ingles added 18 points and 10 assists for the Jazz, while Rudy Gobert finished with 13 points and 17 rebounds. Jae Crowder added 18 points and Ricky Rubio chipped in 17. Utah shot 55 percent from the field to win for the ninth time in 10 games.
The Jazz shot 55 percent from the floor, but after blowing a 15-point lead, had to rally in the final minutes to pull out the victory.
“To be in a close game, to be down with three minutes left and for us to win the game, there’s something good about that,“ said head coach Quin Snyder, whose team improved to 46-30 on the year. “We don’t want to be in close games at the expense of our transition defense and defending in general.“
“You want to get that 18, 20 point lead and keep it and extend it out but at this time of year,“ said Jazz forward Kyle Korver. “There’s going to be close games coming. For us to have some in game decisions to make, shots to make, plays to make, it’s probably good for us.“
Bradley Beal scored 34 points and Bobby Portis added 28 points and 13 rebounds for Washington. Thomas Bryant had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
After a 39-point first quarter, Utah used a 19-4 run to stake out a 41-30 lead early in the second quarter. Ingles scored three baskets to fuel the run, including a step-back jumper at the end of the first quarter.
The Jazz led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter, going up 61-46 on a reverse dunk from Thabo Sefolosha. Mitchell fueled much of the offense during the quarter. He scored 14 points in the period after returning to action following an eye injury that sent him to the locker room midway through the first quarter.
Beal and Portis combined for five straight baskets late in the second quarter to cut Utah’s lead to 63-59. Rubio and Ingles answered with three straight baskets to prevent the Wizards from making it a one-possession game.
”Turnovers really hurt us,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said. ”We did a pretty good job running back, but running back off turnovers or bad shots is a lot harder. We had a few more of those than we usually do. It gave them life. It gave them confidence.”
The Jazz seemed to be on the verge of breaking open the game after going on an 11-0 run in the third quarter. Mitchell and Royce O’Neale each scored back-to-back baskets to give Utah a 92-77 lead. Washington answered with a 13-0 run to end the quarter – capped by a 40-foot buzzer-beater from Jordan McRae – and cut the deficit to 92-90.
Ingles opened the fourth quarter with consecutive baskets to end the run and keep Utah in front for a short time.
The Wizards kept chipping away and finally took a 116-114 lead on a dunk from Beal off a Jazz turnover. Utah surged back in front 120-116 with back-to-back baskets from Gobert and Rubio.
Washington cut it to 126-124 on a 3-pointer from Jabari Parker with 9.2 seconds left. Mitchell iced the win with a pair of free throws.
Utah stay in the 5th seed in the Western Conference playoff race, two games behind Houston for the fourth seed. The Jazz next host Charlotte on Monday.