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Wall, Beal help Wizards overcome sluggish start in letdown game, top struggling Jazz 93-84

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WASHINGTON — For a while, the Washington Wizards seemed determined to make the game live down to its billing. That turnover-filled first half? It looked more like a bad practice.

"One of the guys here in the locker room said, 'Let's treat the first half like it was a shootaround, and in the second half let's play a basketball game,'" center Marcin Gortat said.

That suggestion came from sage veteran Drew Gooden, and his words were well-heeded. The Wizards overcame the sluggish start Sunday night and put away the slumping Utah Jazz, 93-84.

"We came out a little flat, on our heels a little bit," guard Bradley Beal said. "But I think we did a great job retaliating."

This was a classic letdown game. The Wizards had a big win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, and the follow-up was buried in the background of an NFL Sunday. Washington had six assists and 12 turnovers in the first half.

"Unfortunately, this is how we're preparing sometimes for the teams that are in the bottom half of the league," Gortat said. "And, unfortunately, we just didn't perform from the first minute."

The Jazz couldn't capitalize sufficiently on the Wizards' early struggles and paid the price with a bit of role reversal: Utah committed 10 turnovers after the break, while Washington had just three.

The Jazz's biggest first-half lead was only seven points, leaving plenty of opportunity for John Wall, Beal and Nene to lead a third-quarter surge that put the Wizards ahead for good.

Wall filled up his stat line with 16 points, eight assists, six rebounds, five steals, three blocks and five turnovers. Beal scored 22 points, and Paul Pierce added 15 for the Wizards, who have won four straight — the longest current winning streak in the Eastern Conference — and seven of eight.

Alec Burks scored 19 points, and Gordon Hayward had 16 for the Jazz, who have lost 11 of 12.

PHOTO: Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4), from Poland, loses control of the ball against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27), from France, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4), from Poland, loses control of the ball against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27), from France, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

"If we can put together two halves, we'll be a heck of a team," said former Wizards forward Trevor Booker, who had eight points and nine rebounds off the bench. "But we're working towards that right now."


BENCH HELP

Nene and Andre Miller came off the bench to sustain the Wizards' momentum in the second half. Nene finished 5 for 8 from the field and scored 10 points, while Miller was 5 for 6 and also had 10 points. Miller's driving layup in the first minute of the fourth quarter produced the game's first double-digit lead.

TIP-INS

Jazz: F Derrick Favors sat out after spraining his right ankle in the loss to the Miami Heat on Friday. Rudy Gobert filled in, getting his first career NBA start. ... The game was the first of six in the Jazz's annual pre-Christmas road trip.

Wizards: Washington has won seven straight at home and is 5-1 this season vs. the Western Conference. ... One franchise player honored another as Washington Capitals three-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin attended the game wearing a Wall jersey. TV cameras followed Ovechkin into the Wizards' locker room as part of the buildup to the Winter Classic at Nationals Park on New Year's Day.

UP NEXT

Jazz: At Pelicans on Tuesday.

Wizards: Home to Timberwolves on Tuesday.


Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Washington Wizards forward Kris Humphries (43) and guard Bradley Beal (3) combine on Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter (0), from Turkey, in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 93-84. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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