SALT LAKE CITY — The road-weary Washington Wizards wanted to get home after traveling cross-country and playing four games in six days.
They still had one more to go, though, and for the first 40 minutes Wednesday night they looked uninspired against a Utah Jazz squad that had won seven of its previous nine.
But instead of giving up after trailing by 22 points in the first half and 15 entering the fourth quarter, Washington fought back within two on Kevin Seraphin’s jumper with 6:57 left.
Paul Millsap, however, made sure the Wizards never got over the hump. He had 16 points and 15 rebounds to help the Jazz hold on for a 92-88 victory.
“We still need to learn how to put teams away,” said Millsap, who added two blocks and three steals.
Millsap’s 14-foot baseline jumper with 21 seconds left halted a nearly 3-minute scoreless stretch for the Jazz and bumped their lead to 90-84.
Martell Webster’s third 3-pointer cut Utah’s lead to 90-87 with 15 seconds left, but ex-Wizards guard Randy Foye made both free throws with 11 seconds remaining to seal it.
“It was a good fight for us but just a bad job of coming out and being ready to play,” said Wizards guard A.J. Price, who had 10 points and three assists.
“Consensus is everybody’s ready to get home. There’s no secret about that but at the same time we have to come out and play the game. (You would be) feeling much better about yourself if you come and end the road trip with the ‘W’ as opposed to the way we did tonight.”
The Wizards, who have been playing well since the return of guard John Wall after he missed 33 games with a knee injury, finished 2-3 on their road trip. That followed a three-game home winning streak.
“The last eight games we’ve built a good, solid round of basketball, and we’ve got to continue to build on that and not take any steps backward, moving forward when we get back from the trip,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
The Jazz did just about everything right early.
They shot 63.2 percent in the first quarter and used a 22-6 run to open the second quarter, showing their depth with a second unit that doesn’t have much drop-off.
Enes Kanter continued his hot shooting, making his first four shots for a 10-point quarter. Gordon Hayward, whose move to the bench coincided with Utah’s first game against Washington, an 83-78 Jazz victory on Nov. 17, attacked the rim with some fancy dribbling and footwork to finish with 15 points.
“We’re getting stops defensively and showing some physicality and that’s what got us the lead,” Hayward said. “We got buckets in transition and easy baskets when we executed.”
It was a different story in the fourth quarter.
“We let them dictate where we were going with their pressure,” Hayward said. “We let them get two or three buckets in a row. We just need to calm down and not rush through stuff. We got going too fast and (gave) them easy looks on the other end.”
Webster led Washington with 15 points. Wall added 14 in 27 minutes for the Wizards as they try to ease him back following knee surgery.
Emeka Okafor scored just six points but added 17 rebounds for Washington.
“Second half we just kept playing, fighting, gave ourselves a chance,” Wall said. “We missed a couple of easy shots down the stretch. . I don’t think we had enough legs to close it out.”
The Wizards shot just 23.8 percent in the first quarter and 36 percent overall, but went 7 of 18 on 3-pointers.
Though they were outscored in the paint 46-38 they held their own on the boards, matching Utah’s 51.
Utah also got some key plays from veteran point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who works out with Wall in the summer. Tinsley finished with 11 points and six assists.
But it was Millsap, frequently the subject of trade rumors, who took over in the fourth.
He drew a charge by Wall and had a key steal from Nene with 3:26 left that resulted in a clear path foul for Hayward, who sank both free throws.
And after Bradley Beal’s basket off Utah’s 14th turnover pulled Washington to 88-84 with 1:10 left, Millsap made the biggest shot of the game.
“It’s a concern when we lose big leads, but we’re winning the game so we’re not going to go crazy about it,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “You’d like to learn a lesson not to relax when we’re up. Turnovers and fast scores for the opponents is what’s really concerning.”
After playing only three games in 11 days, Utah heads to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Friday.
NOTES: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert was in attendance, sitting next to Jazz President Randy Rigby. . Kanter finished 4 of 4 and is 14 of 15 over Utah’s last four games. . Okafor’s 17 rebounds were one shy of his season high. . Washington shot 5 of 21 in the first quarter.
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