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Jazz stretch NBA win streak to nine, Irving shows no rust in return

(AFP)

Croatia’s Bojan Bogdanovic scored 31 points as the Utah Jazz won their ninth straight game with a 127-116 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.

Frenchman Rudy Gobert finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, one of a half-dozen players who finished in double figures for Utah, which improved to 27-12 for the season. 

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The Jazz tightened up their defense in the second half to knock the Wizards off their game, then pulled it out in the final quarter.

Jordan Clarkson added 23 points off the bench and Joe Ingles chipped in 20 for the Jazz, who are now 14-1 in their last 15 games.

Gobert made three dunks over a two-minute stretch after Washington cut the deficit to 111-108 on a driving layup from Bradley Beal with 3:32 left. 

Beal scored 25 points to lead the Wizards. Davis Bertans scored 18, Jordan McRae added 16 and Ian Mahinmi chipped in 15 for Washington, who lost for the second time in five games. 

Beal was back in the lineup after missing several games with injuries.

Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz missed his first game of the season while recovering from an illness.

– Hapless Hawks –

Elsewhere, Kyrie Irving had one of the best shooting nights of his career, scoring 21 points in his first game in two months to lift the Brooklyn Nets to a 108-86 win over the hapless Atlanta Hawks.

Irving returned from missing 26 games with a right shoulder problem, and made 10 of 11 shots in his first appearance since November 14.

“I just work on my game diligently,” he said. “You have nights like this coming back. I just love the game, I missed it so much.”

Irving nailed his one three-point attempt and had three assists in 20 minutes. After getting 11 points by halftime, He went five-for-five from the floor in the third before sitting down for the remainder of the game.

He sat over the final 17:54, exiting after Brooklyn took an 87-50 lead with outcome beyond doubt.

The Nets, who were 13-13 in Irving’s absence, led by as many as 39 and won their second straight game following a seven-game losing skid. 

Taurean Prince added 14 for the Nets, who beat the Hawks for the eighth straight time. Caris LeVert and DeAndre Jordan contributed 13 each for the Nets.

The Hawks saw their league-worst record drop to 8-32.

In New York, Taj Gibson made a clutch free throw with 98 seconds left to give New York the lead for good as the Knicks stormed back from a 14-point deficit in the second half to beat the Miami Heat 124-121.

Julius Randle score a game-high 26 points to lead seven players in double figures for the Knicks, who snapped a five-game losing streak.

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