Nuggets at Wizards: JaVale McGee revisits his old dunking grounds

USA TODAY Sports

JaVale McGee returns to play against the team that gave him his shot in the NBA. How will he and the Nuggets fare in his first visit back to the Verizon Center?

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 56
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vs
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34-21 (11-18 on the road)
0-1
15-37 (11-15 at home)
February 22nd, 2013 - 5:00 PM (MT)
Verizon Center - Washington, DC
TV Altitude / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson
PG John Wall
Andre Iguodala
SG Garrett Temple
Danilo Gallinari
SF Martell Webster
Kenneth Faried
PF Nene
Kosta Koufos
C Emeka Okafor
Notes
Denver Stiffs Blogs Bullets Forever
None Injuries Cartier Martin (day to day)
Nuggets have just 11 road games remaining
Stat Wizards are 6th in the NBA in opponent PPG (95.2)

Despite starting the season off 0-12, the Wizards of late have started to turn heads with the return of John Wall to the starting lineup. Wall initially missed the first 33 games of the season due to a knee injury, but since his return, the Wizards are actually playing around .500 ball (11-9 in their last 20, 4-6 in their last 10). Stretched out over the season, the Wiz might actually have been in the Eastern playoffs with a record floating around .500 (of course, they wouldn't even sniff the playoffs in the West).

When evaluating the Wizards, its easy to fall back on the Bill Parcells adage that "you are what your record says you are". Yet this year, the Wizards have notched wins over the Heat, Thunder, Bulls, Clippers, Knicks, Nets ... and yes, our very own Denver Nuggets (as one of just three home losses for the Nuggets this year). Clearly, the Wizards have shown the capacity to hang with the big boys of the NBA, but overall cannot seem to find any regular consistency to their play.

When the Wizards do win, they are beating teams with some truly stifling defense, holding their opponents to a 6th-best 95.2 points per game. The frontcourt pairing of old friend Nene and Emeka Okafor is a nightmare for teams that like to take it inside - like our Denver Nuggets. They also rebound as a team very well, collecting an average of 43.2 boards per game, good for 9th-best in the NBA. With such good defensive metrics, you'd certainly expect this team to be better than third from the bottom in the Eastern conference standings. So what's keeping the Wizards from being a more competitive team?

In a word: scoring. The Wizards are dead last (30th) in the NBA, scoring just 91.3 ppg. Just how bad is it? The aforementioned John Wall, having played only 19 games this season, is the team's leading scorer at 14.4 ppg. While 2 guard Bradley Beal lit the Nuggets up in Denver to the tune of 23 points on 8-13 shooting, the Wizards generally aren't going to beat you by shooting lights out.

So what should the Nuggets do to secure a win tonight? Primarily, contain John Wall, and force contact inside. The Nuggets live and die on points in the paint and even though they'll be running into Nene's length and Okafor's girth, they can't be afraid to get into their bodies and draw fouls. The Nuggets will also be looking for better contributions from Andre Iguodala and Wilson Chandler, who scored a combined 1 point in 47 minutes of play against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. Yeesh.

Finally, a special note: tonight will be JaVale's first game playing back in Washington following his trade to Denver for Nene back on March 15th, 2012 after the lockout (late trade deadline due to truncated season, obviously). The "JaVavlevator" left the Wizards with a lot of silly plays and bad execution in his time with the team, along with the same sort of flashes of brilliance he's displayed in Denver. Do Washington fans miss McGee, or are they glad he's gone and "someone else's problem"? Either way, it'll be interesting to see how the Wizards home crowd reacts to the return of the prodigal son they traded away for a sure-thing-but-ain't-getting-any-better piece in Nene.

The Nuggets need to get better on the road starting yesterday, and they can keep pace with a suddenly hot Grizzlies team by winning tonight's game and tomorrow's against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Find out the scoop from D.C. over at Bullets Forever.

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