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Jazz's 4-game winning streak snapped in loss to Wizards

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WASHINGTON — Will Hardy walked onto the court in disgust.

The Utah Jazz head coach had just watched his team allow Kyle Kuzma to run the length of the court unimpeded for a layup — after the Jazz had just made a bucket no less. That was unacceptable to Hardy, and he quickly signaled for a timeout to get after his team.

That may have been the most damning instance of Utah's lack of transition defense, but it was far from the only one. That's why the Jazz left the nation's capital with a 121-112 loss to Washington Wizards Saturday at Capital One Arena.

"We lost this game with our defensive intensity," Hardy said. "We went through a long stretch there where we let Washington be very comfortable offensively. We did not communicate picking up the ball in transition. They were able to get some easy looks, and they got into rhythm because of our lack of defensive intensity."

And once in rhythm, the ball seemed to bounce Washington's way.

Utah's Kelly Olynyk blocked an alley-oop attempt, but the ball still managed to bounce off a hand and into the hoop. Washington's Kristaps Porzingis caught two Jazz defenders ball watching as he soared between them for a one-handed tip-in dunk. Wizards wing Corey Kispert's 3-point attempt hit the front of the rim — and then bounced in.

The Jazz had been on the right side of some fortunate bounces during their 10-3 start: shots have fallen, 50-50 balls have actually been more like 80-20 balls, and a 7-footer that can do it all offensively has been on their side.

On Saturday, they found out what it was like to have all those things go against you.

Porzingis scored 31 points and collected 10 rebounds to lead a Washington offensive attack the Jazz just couldn't keep up with for the duration of the game.

The Wizards shot 47% from the field and was 16-of-36 from the 3-point line. Before Saturday's game, the most 3s Washington had made in a game was 12.

Earlier this week, Hardy said that while the Jazz have been energetic in defending the 3-point line there was some obvious luck to Utah's hot defensive start (Utah's opponents had shot a near league-low 32.3% from the 3-point line entering Saturday's game).

Things balanced out a bit against Washington.

Utah shot 35% from deep and the Wizards shot 44.4%. It's a make-or-miss league sometimes.

That was never clearer than when Jordan Clarkson pulled up for an open 3 with 2:49 left. If he would have made that shot, the Jazz would have been down just 6 points and still had a chance. It missed, and seconds later Porizingis drained a 3-pointer of his own.

That was game over.

But things were trending that way long before that.

Washington went on a 22-2 run between the end of the first half and the start of the second to wipe what had been a 9-point Utah lead in the second quarter. The Jazz played catch up the rest of the way — sometimes literally, giving chase as Washington pushed the ball right past them.

"It was just a lapse," said Mike Conley, who had 3 points and 10 assists. "For whatever reason, our guys weren't communicating the way they needed to. I think we all tried to get back to certain matchups, but when you're playing a team like Washington, who have a lot of guys, all five that can push in transition, it requires you to guard whoever it is — just get back. We didn't do that tonight."

And that made it difficult to get back into the game.

Collin Sexton scored 13 of his 17 points in the third quarter to keep Utah within striking distance at the end, and Utah cut Washington's lead to 6 points with 8:13 left in the fourth quarter, but couldn't come up with enough stops down the stretch.

Porizingis and Kuzma, who both dominated Utah's smaller defenders when the Jazz switched, proved too much. Kuzma, the former Utah Utes player, finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the win.

The Jazz were mostly fine offensively — they had six guys in double figures, had 33 assists and had an offensive rating of 113.1. Clarkson finished with 18 points, Markkanen had 17 points, and Malik Beasley added 16 points, who quickly got back with the team following the birth of his daughter.

On most nights, that would have probably been enough to get a win. Not on Saturday.

So why the lapses?

"Some nights that communication is just a little bit off," Hardy said. "I don't think it stems from a want-to or an effort. I think when the communication isn't sharp, you end up behind the curve on a lot of plays. And so it's hard to make up for it with just raw effort."

The good news for Hardy: The Jazz play again Sunday in Philadelphia, giving the team an immediate opportunity to bounce back.

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