SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz were without Donovan Mitchell. They had allowed the Washington Wizards to shoot over 60% in the first half. And with 8:25 left in the third quarter, they were facing a 15-point deficit.
Not so much.
The Jazz flipped a switch on Sunday in the nation’s capital. When Rudy Gobert putback an Emmanuel Mudiay miss with an emphatic two-handed slam, it finished off a 15-0 Utah run that occurred in a span of just 2:19. That was the catalyst to Utah’s 127-116 win over the Wizards Sunday at Capital One Arena.
The Jazz (27-12) have won nine straight and are 14-1 in their last 15 games.
“It started with me,” Gobert said. “I wasn’t great on defense in the first half. So I just tried to come out and give something to the team.”
Emmanuel Mudiay, who started in place of Donovan Mitchell who missed the game due to illness, said that at halftime Jazz coach Quin Snyder adjusted the defense to make it so that Gobert was more of a presence.
Washington had shot 61.7% in the opening two quarters, scored 66 points and had an 11-point lead at the break.
So the Jazz had Gobert step up higher when guarding the pick and rolls, forcing the Washington guards to beat him on drives. And they didn’t beat him often.
This was a game that Gobert took over. He suffocated the Wizards' offense in the second half, forcing turnovers, bad shots and poor possessions. That’s what allowed the Jazz to comeback.
“When you get stops, their defense isn’t set so you can get a lot easy points,” Mudiay said. “When they’re scoring and you’re trying to score, it’s tough because their defense is set. So, like I said, when the defense got into the game, the big fellow was a presence and it changed.”
And his presence was also felt on the offensive end. Gobert scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half. But he got plenty of help on that end.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 31 points to lead the Jazz, Jordan Clarkson finished with 23, and Joe Ingles added 20 points and nine assists. Utah had six players — including all five starters — reach double figures.
Ingles and Mudiay, the Jazz’s makeshift starting backcourt on Sunday, combined for 34 points, 14 assists and zero turnovers. Even with the Jazz struggling from 3-point range (10 of 30), there was plenty of offense once Utah started stringing together stops.
“Donovan, everybody knows he’s our engine and Jordan was big,” Mudiay said. “We know that we had to play together to make up for his absence tonight. I think a lot of people stepped up. Bojan had a good first half for us to stay in the game, but we won it with defense. In the second half, we came back and started playing the right way.”
After falling down by 15 points, the Jazz outscored the Wizards by 26 over the final 20 minutes of the game.
Considering the circumstances — the first game of an East Coast trip, the early start, not having Mitchell, and being down big in the second half against a team that has beat some playoff squads and got back Bradley Beal — this was one of Utah’s best wins of the season.
“We want to keep getting better,” Gobert said. “And obviously keep winning. Donovan is a huge part of what we do but being able to win without him, I think gonna help all the other guys to be in positions that were not there before. When times are going to get rough, we are going to be prepared.”
Times were already tough on Sunday. And the Jazz showed they were prepared.