Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
WASHINGTON D.C. — There were two plays that summed up Utah's pivotal run in the second half: Both were dunk attempts and ended quite different than the other.
The first happened when Washington's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drove easily past Joe Ingles down the baseline and went sky high toward the rim — just not enough toward the rim. As he cocked the ball back, the ball hit the side of the backboard. Yep, he was blocked by the backboard; it was a tough look.
On the other end, Donovan Mitchell caught a Jordan Clarkson lob and windmilled it into the basket.
The two dunk attempts were part of a 25-8 run the Jazz used to run away from the Wizards in Washington Saturday, and Utah (19-7) finished off the sweep of its four-game road trip with a 123-98 win over Washington at Capital One Arena.
While Mitchell's dunk initially even earned some excited "oohs" and "aahs" from Wizards fans, upon review, it was, well, not the cleanest. He had to muscle it in as he was well on his way to the ground.
Remember that famous picture of LeBron James dunking a Dwyane Wade lob while they were in Miami? That's the image that came to Clarkson's mind when he threw up the pass.
He wasn't entirely crazy in that thought. Like Wade, Clarkson was ahead of the play. And, like Wade, he lobbed it backward to a trailing teammate.
"That's what I was hoping for," Clarkson said with a laugh. "It kind of went downhill from there."
Mitchell wanted the picturesque moment, too. He saw how the play was unfolding in front of him and knew that he would have a chance to run into the alley-oop.
"I was tired. I had my mind on how I was really, really going to put all my energy into it," Mitchell said.
There was a problem, though. Ever since the two-time All-Star injured his ankle last season, he's been cautious about what's underneath him. Since Bradley Beal had stopped near the basket, Mitchell was a little worried he was going to land on him. So almost instinctively, he leaned away from the basket, which led to the less-than-ideal alley-oop.
"It looked nasty," Mitchell said. "I'm really mad. It was disgusting."
Mitchell is often his own worst critic; this is one of those times. It wasn't that bad; in fact, it was pretty good — not legendary-picture good, but fine in its own right. And he got the most important part down: It went in.
"First thing I thought was to throw it off the glass," Clarkson said. "And I was just like, 'No, we can't do this. We got to score in transition right now.' I was just glad he made the dunk because he hasn't had too many ducks this year. We give him a lot of (expletive) for that. I'm just happy he made it. That helped a lot of momentum in the second half."
Momentum was what the Jazz needed, too. It was Utah's third game in four nights, and it was on the end of a weeklong road trip back East. The Wizards, meanwhile, hadn't played since Wednesday.
Yet, it was the Jazz who got more crisp as the game went on.
"I think teams that are able to compartmentalize it and play through it and maybe understand when you're a little fatigued, the things you need to do to still be successful — you have to be more precise," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "That's what we saw tonight."
The Jazz didn't shoot as well from the 3-point line as they have during the rest of what is now a seven-game winning streak, but made up for it with some strong play-making from Mike Conley (11 points and eights assist), Mitchell (28 and four assists) and even Clarkson (11 points and five assists).
All those passes led to big nights for Utah's men down low. Rudy Gobert had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Hassan Whiteside had 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks — all of which were season highs.
"There was a play in the first half where (Clarkson) stopped in the middle lane, shot-faked, pass-fake and then threw Hassan a lob," Snyder said. "It was a picture-perfect play."
It turns out Clarkson got the perfect picture after all.