'Big Turk' Kanter leads Jazz over Wizards 104-101
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Big Turk lived up to his nickname.
After two games in which he was nearly invisible, Enes Kanter loomed large in the middle and scored 24 points to lift the Utah Jazz past the Washington Wizards 104-101 Saturday night.
"The big man played big tonight," said Gordon Hayward, who hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds left to seal the win.
Kanter made 11 of 13 shots and the Jazz overcame a 13-point deficit to take control in the fourth quarter and keep the Wizards from moving above the .500 mark for the first time in more than four years. Kanter also took the pressure off of Derrick Favors, who is dealing with a sore hip.
"Enes was doing the scoring, so I just tried to go out there and play defense and get rebounds," said Favors, who had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Hayward finished with 16 points and Alec Burks added 15 as the Jazz swept the two games with the Wizards for the second straight season.
Trevor Ariza led Washington with 23 points, including a 3-pointer with 52 seconds left that drew the Wizards within 101-98.
John Wall banked in a 3-pointer to get within 102-101 with 3.6 seconds left, but Hayward made two free throws and Wall missed at the buzzer.
Kanter scored a total of eight points in two blowout losses to Minnesota and drew his coach's ire for often being in the wrong spots. But in this one, Kanter consistently found himself in the right place at the right time - picking up loose balls, making timely passes and changing the Wizards' shots in the paint.
"I personally was really bad two games against Minnesota, but tonight I wanted to come out with lots of energy," Kanter said.
The muscular center from Turkey displayed a deft shooting touch on jumpers and power moves to the basket. When Ariza's 3-pointer cut the lead to 92-90, Kanter hit a jump shot. With 57 seconds left, he made two free throws to give Utah a 101-95 cushion after a nifty reverse-pivot down the lane that drew a foul.
Utah's schedule has allowed for practices in the past few weeks and the young Jazz players have benefited from the extra work.
"My coaches have given me a lot of confidence and we've been practicing really hard," Kanter said. "The things I have been trying to do and now showing in the games."
Burks and Hayward drove through the Wizards' defense for layups as the Jazz scored on four straight possessions to open the fourth quarter and take an 85-77 lead.
"We did a good job of attacking them after playing inside-out. We attacked them in transition, attacked them in the half court," said Trey Burke, who had 12 points and eight assists.
The Jazz seemed a step quicker to loose balls as the game wore on, but the Wizards made it interesting in the final minute before yet again failing to move above .500.
"We were running in mud half the game, in my opinion," Washington coach Randy Wittman said. "We wouldn't commit ourselves to our pace."
Ten times over the past five seasons, the Wizards have had a chance to surpass .500. They've lost every time.
"I feel like we had this game won. We just didn't do a good job in stopping them and they just kept making good plays," Wall said.
Wizards last won a game to go above .500 on Oct. 31, 2009, when they beat the New Jersey Nets to improve to 2-1. They lost to Cleveland on Nov. 3 and haven't had a winning record since.
The Wizards, who led most of the game, have lost this season at 0-0, 9-9, 14-14, 19-19, 20-20 and 21-21. No one on the current Wizards roster was on the team when it was last above .500.
Though Utah is at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the Jazz are competitive when healthy. The starting lineup of Burke, Hayward, Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson and Favors is 12-8 this season.
Favors was a game-time decision but felt his right hip strain had healed enough to give it a go and the Jazz needed his defense and rebounding prowess. When Favors needed a rest, Kanter made his presence known, especially with his 10 points in the fourth quarter.
After stumbling through a subpar January, Ariza has found his groove. He scored 23 points in a win over Phoenix Friday and made 6 of 10 3-pointers against Utah.
But his fellow perimeter players couldn't find their range. Beal was 5 of 16 and Wall made just 4 of 14 attempts from the field.
"I thought Trey and the guys playing Wall made him work for everything he got," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said.
Nene had 19 points, including a handful of emphatic dunks, and Marcin Gortat had 14 points and 11 rebounds, but they couldn't stop Kanter when it mattered most.
NOTES: The Jazz claimed third-year forward Malcolm Thomas off waivers on Saturday. He has appeared in 16 career NBA games over three seasons with San Antonio (this season), Golden State and Chicago, averaging 1.1 points and 1.8 rebounds in 5.4 minutes. . The teams combined to miss their first seven shots. . The Jazz reserves outscored their Washington counterparts 52-18 but all five Wizard starters scored in double figures.