SALT LAKE CITY — There was an echoey sound coming into the locker room that caused Donovan Mitchell and Royce O’Neale to exchange curious looks.
“Is that someone singing in the shower?” Mitchell asked. “Is that Georges?”
Two days ago, the Jazz locker room was a somber place. It was a quiet place with minimal words spoken. On Friday, it was just the opposite. Mitchell joked during a joint presser, O’Neale screamed “Tony for 3!” as he walked by Tony Bradley and, yes, Georges Niang serenaded the room with his singing.
Crazy what a postgame locker room visit from NFL legend Emmitt Smith can do. Oh, and a win doesn’t hurt either.
The Jazz snapped their four-game losing streak with a 129-119 win over the Washington Wizards on Friday at Vivint Arena.
“I don’t mean to sound like the bearer of bad news but we have a big stretch where we’ve got to stay locked in,” Mitchell said. “We can’t take these games for granted. We are behind the eight ball from the All-Star break. It feels good to get this win, but we can’t be satisfied.”
It was just one win. But it was one that felt needed. Losing streaks can weigh on teams and several players — from Bradley to O’Neale to Mitchell — admitted that they could feel the added stress as the losses piled up. But they knew there was only one balm for that: a win.
With the way the last week has gone, even a 15-point fourth-quarter lead didn’t feel safe for the Jazz.
And that was before that lead was cut to 12. Then to 9. Then to 6. Then to 3.
But Mitchell had had enough of the losing streak.
In a span of 1:22, Mitchell scored 10 points to restore control. He drilled a deep 3-pointer to stop a 12-0 Washington run before getting inside for a short push shot and then stepped back for another long-range bomb. Mitchell finished with 30 points — 12 in the fourth quarter — to lead the Jazz to the win.
It was a superstar stretch when the Jazz needed it most.
“Obviously, we did a lot of good things, but just staying with it, continuing to find ways to build,” Mitchell said. “It’s not always going to be perfect. You can’t just come in here and think you are going to win by whatever amount. For us, it’s just about staying with it. They made a push. They made a few runs, but we didn’t get too down on ourselves and continued to fight.”
That fight was something that has been missing over the last four games, but was clearly evident on Friday — especially in a few moments.
At the end of the third quarter, O’Neale made a key block that set up a Mike Conley layup on the other end — a critical 4-point swing. In the fourth quarter, Conley dove on the ground between two Washington Wizards to save a possession and O’Neale stole an outlet pass simply by being aggressive.
“Plays where guys are diving on the floor, causing turnovers and keeping second chances alive were plays we were missing,” Conley said. “You could just feel it, you just feel the guys really trying to give that effort trying to get that, just that little bit extra to try to get a win.”
And it helps when you have Mitchell making star plays in the clutch. It was the fourth straight game that Mitchell had scored at least 30 points — and this time he got some help.
Bojan Bogdanovic had 21 points, Jordan Clarkson had 20 and Conley was terrific with 16 points, six assists and five rebounds.
Led by Clarkson, Utah also got a complete effort from its bench. Bradley hit his first-career 3-pointer (“There were four seconds left on the clock and Joe (Ingles) was like, ‘Shoot it!’ and I was like, ‘All right,’” Bradley said), Ingles had 10 points and six assists and Niang hit a pair of 3-pointers.
All four members of the Utah bench had at least a plus/minus of plus-17. That meant that even with Bradley Beal dropping 42 for the Wizards, the Jazz had enough to return to the win column.
“They turned the game a couple times,” Snyder said. “... I thought Joe came out really aggressive early, too, which was good to see. As the game went on, he was making plays for other people. … You can kind of go down the line. Tony Bradley, I thought gave us good energy. Georges made a couple shots and really competed on Bertans. Jordan’s ability to make plays, I thought, in addition to scoring the ball, when he went in a couple times he made the right play and passed it too. But all of those guys made a real impact.”
The losing streak is over. The relief has come. Now, it’s about moving forward.
“We just have to keep building on this one,” O’Neale said. “On the last game, I thought we picked it up defensively. This game, it carried over and we just have to continue to build.”