WASHINGTON (AP) - Flip Saunders sent John Wall a long text message on Sunday night. The Washington Wizards coach told his rookie guard that he'd exceeded expectations this season and didn't have to score a lot to have an impact.
Wall responded with 19 points and a career-high 15 assists on Monday to lead the Wizards to their fourth straight home victory and first two-game winning streak of the season, 108-101 over the Utah Jazz.
``We've been on him. We're asking a lot of him,' Saunders said.
He told Wall: ``Do what you do. Play with energy. Push it up. See if people are open and get people the ball and play with enthusiasm.'
Wall did just that with 10 assists in the first 18 minutes of the game.
In the second half, it was Nick Young's turn. Young continued his hot play, scoring 22 of his 25 points in the second half.
The Wizards took control with a 10-0 run midway through the third quarter. With 6:40 remaining, Wall passed to JaVale McGee, who made a leaping, acrobatic dunk and was fouled by Raja Bell. He converted the free throw for a 62-55 lead.
At halftime, Washington led 42-39, and Saunders scolded Wall and his teammates for not finding Young, who had a career-high 43 points three games ago and 29 in his last game.
``We didn't get him any shots,' Saunders said. ``When he gets going, it opens things up for everybody else.'
The result was not only the Wizards' first two-game winning streak, but their first win against a team with a winning record. Utah had won three straight, and played the first of a five-game road trip. The Jazz completed the season's first half with a 27-14 record.
Now, the Wizards are faced with a bigger challenge: winning on the road.
Though Washington is 12-8 at home, feasting on the league's bottom-feeders, they're a horrid 0-19 away from the Verizon Center. Instead of congratulating themselves for this mini-streak, they keep referring to the road woes.
``I think we've been in every game. Somehow, we don't finish it. Just make a ton of mistakes in the fourth quarter,' Rashard Lewis said.
The Wizards will try for their first road win on Wednesday in Milwaukee, and Andray Blatche, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds, is attempting to figure out a reason for their struggles.
``When we're home, we have so much more energy and focus. When we're away, we're in the game into the fourth quarter and we lose that focus,' Blatche said.
The Wizards were focused nearly the entire game as Blatche hit his first five shots, and they extended the lead to 73-58 with 3:39 left. But the Jazz, who have won 12 games this season after trailing by more than 10, looked as though they might have another comeback in them.
Utah was down 101-91 with 3:11 to play, then scored seven straight to close to 101-98 with 1:26 left. Blatche converted a free throw, Young hit a 3-pointer and Wall made two free throws to secure the win.
At 20, Wall has lots of pressure and he says he's not only OK with getting texts from his coach, he welcomes it, and he's even appreciating their nagging him about his composure.
``I get a fine every time I pout or show frustration on the court. I don't want to lose that money.'
Utah was playing its first afternoon game of the season and the first of five on the road. In what amounted to an 11 a.m. start for the Jazz, they lost for just the third time in 17 games against Eastern Conference teams.
Deron Williams had 28 points and 11 assists for Utah in his first matchup with Wall. Al Jefferson had 25 points and 10 rebounds.
``They came out and played better than us,' Williams said. ``It looked like they wanted it a little bit more, like it meant a little bit more to them.'
Notes: Williams reached double figures for the 47th straight game - a career best. ... Utah F Gordon Heyward missed the game with a sinus infection. ... Lewis grabbed his 5,000th career rebound. ... Eddie Jordan, the former Wizards and 76ers coach, visited and chatted with Washington coach Flip Saunders before the game. Jordan and Saunders are two of 11 Wizards coaches during the 23 seasons Jerry Sloan has coached the Jazz.
The Associated Press News Service
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