- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2020

Early in the third quarter, Bradley Beal moved inside for a driving layup and left the ground. His legs dangled in the air as he maneuvered around a defender to score the basket, bringing many Washington Wizards fans to their feet.

For a team decimated by injuries over the last two seasons, this was one of those rarer feel-good moments when a vital player returned from an injury, rather than left because of one.

It was also one of the few positive takeaways from the Wizards‘ afternoon. Beal scored 25 points to lead Washington, and center Thomas Bryant also played his first game since Dec. 1, but the Wizards lost to the Utah Jazz 127-116 on Sunday.

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Beal had missed seven of the last eight games with right leg soreness. Bryant was sidelined for 18 games with a stress reaction in his right foot.

“The biggest thing was just being out there with my teammates,” Beal said. “Just being able to get a rhythm, being able to get up and down. I felt good for sure.”

The Wizards shot 61.7% from the floor in the first half and led by 11 at halftime, but the Jazz scored 38 points in the third quarter to move back ahead. The Wizards had no one to match up against Utah center Rudy Gobert and his monstrous 7-foot-9 wingspan. Gobert scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half, instrumental to the Jazz’s comeback.

“He’s a real good defender,” Bryant said. “He blocks a lot of shots, he’s a real good rim protector and he’s very active around the rim. That’s really it right there.”

For Washington, Davis Bertans had 18 points off the bench, including four 3-pointers, while Jordan McRae scored 16. Ian Mahinmi tallied 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Beal started while Bryant came off the bench, but both were on firm minutes restrictions. Beal played 27 minutes, and when he was off the court he spent some of his time pedaling an exercise bike to stay loose. Bryant finished with eight points in 15 minutes.

Most of Beal’s points came from the paint and the block; he finished 0-for-8 from 3-point range.

Beal had played 194 consecutive games for the Wizards before sitting out for the first time on Dec. 28. He said he doesn’t anticipate needing to reduce the amount of work he puts in on off days.

“It probably increases more — just the things that I do and my routine on the daily,” Beal said. “Probably doing more reps of it and making sure that I’m cognizant of listening to my body. I’m gonna stop being the hard-headed kid I used to be.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks felt both Beal and Bryant gave the Wizards good minutes in their returns.

“We knew going into the game it was limited minutes,” Brooks said. “Brad didn’t shoot the ball well, but he played with a good force, a good fire and good energy. He was playing hard on both ends.”

Brooks lamented how Washington gave the Jazz 22 free throws in the second half. “We have to defend without fouling,” he said.

Utah has won its ninth straight and 14 of its last 15 games. Bojan Bogdanovic led Utah with 31 points and Jordan Clarkson added 23 off the bench. The Jazz played without two regular starters: leading scorer Donovan Mitchell (illness) and point guard Mike Conley (hamstring).

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