SALT LAKE CITY — Don’t let the record fool you, the Washington Wizards are … dangerous.
Not great, but good and getting better.
And definitely a little scary these days.
That seemed to be the feeling Tuesday morning before the Utah Jazz practiced at the Zions Bank Basketball Center. Now three days removed from last Saturday’s home victory over Cleveland, the Jazz are rested and ready for the Wizards tonight at EnergySolutions Arena.
And they’re not taking Washington (9-30) lightly.
“They’re playing a lot better,” coach Tyrone Corbin said of the Wizards, who own the NBA’s worst record.
“It’s an explosive team. They can score points,” he added.
Washington is on a hot streak, having won five of its last seven games, including a 98-95 win at Portland on Monday.
“Usually when you’re not playing as well, and you’re a team like that, and you get out on the road, you feel as though, ‘It’s us against everybody else,’ 20,000 (people),” Jazz guard Randy Foye said. “It makes you play better.”
Foye said he watched recent Washington games vs. the Clippers (a loss), Nuggets (a win) and Trail Blazers (a win).
“It’s just a different team,” he said.
Indeed they are.
The return of point guard John Wall, who missed the first 33 games of the season with a knee injury, is the main reason for that. In the six games since his return, the Wizards are 4-2 and Wall, 22, is averaging 14 points and 6.7 assists per game.
They’re also scoring 11 points more per game since his return.
“It’s a different team. More speed,” Foye said. “(Wall is) a vet now. He knows how to do certain things to get guys shots, he knows how to get himself off. Even though he’s not 100 percent back, he’s a smart, savvy player and they feed off his energy.”
Wall has yet to start a game this season, but recorded a season-high 30 minutes of playing time while scoring a season-high 24 points in a Jan. 19 road loss to the Clippers.
The Jazz (22-19) could be challenged by Wall’s quickness. Without starting point guard Mo Williams (thumb surgery) they will start 34-year-old Jamaal Tinsley at the point and back him up with 33-year-old Earl Watson.
The Jazz are on a three-game winning streak and have taken seven of their last nine games, however, speedy guards similar to Wall have given them trouble this season.
“We’ve got to make sure he sees bodies and not gaps (in the defense),” Corbin said. “It’s not just the guy that’s guarding him, we’ve got to make sure that everybody’s back and when he comes down, especially in transition, he sees bodies instead of seeing holes to the basket. He’s a fast guy and he’s athletic.”
Neither Wall nor center Nene Hilario has played when the Jazz visited the Wizards on Nov. 13, 2012 and won 83-76.
Hilario has now played in 26 games, averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
“We can’t take anybody for granted,” Corbin said. “We can’t look at anybody’s record and think that because their record is what it is we can show up and win games. We have to play a certain way on both ends of the floor to be effective.”