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Nuggets at Wizards: What to do against the NBA's worst team? (5pm MST)

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Beating the Washington Wizards - the NBA's worst team - should be no problem for an elite Western Conference squad. Or so thought the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night ...

The Particulars ...

Game: 15
Records:
Denver:
10-5 (4-3 on the road)
Streak: Won 2
Washington: 2-12 (2-6 at home)
Streak: Won 1
Injuries:
Denver
: Rudy Fernandez (right Achilles strain) is out. DeMarre Carroll (left hamstring strain) no timetable for return. Timofey Mozgov (lower back strain) is a game-time decision.
Washington: Ronny Turiaf (fractured left hand) is out.

Television: Altitude TV

Season Series: First match-up.

Opposition's Take: Bullets Forever

A funny thing happened to the Oklahoma City Thunder as they were barnstorming their way to the NBA's best record at 12-2. For some bizarre reason (or an assortment of bizarre reasons), they lost (LOST!) to the NBA's worst team, the Washington Wizards, 105-102 on Wednesday night. Prior to that game, the Wizards - they with one lone victory on their resume this season - couldn't hold a candle to the Washington Generals.

So how did such a destitute team take down the NBA's (arguably) best team? They must have shot lights out, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, en route to their victory over the Thunder the Wizards connected on just 38.4% of their field goal attempts. And still won the game!

What killed the Thunder on Wednesday night was a scoring drought at the worst possible time. From about eight minutes to one minute left in the entire game, Oklahoma City managed to make just one field goal. Meanwhile, the Wizards got enough out of point guard John Wall (25 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) and shooting guard Nick Young (24 points including 5 made three-pointers) to shock the Thunder and bring home the W.

All of this, of course, begs the obvious question: if the Wizards could beat the Thunder ... could they beat our Nuggets, too?

If history is any indication, a Nuggets loss in unlikely. Not only are the Nuggets 14-3 against the Wiz in their past 17 match ups, but the Nuggets have won six out of eight games in Washington by an average margin of 16.3 ppg. Forgetting the past altogether, the Nuggets are suddenly playing pretty damn good basketball on the road as evident by them besting a pair of teams substantively better than the Wizards: the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers in back-to-back outings.

I'm thinking the Wizards got their biggest victory of the 2011-12 season and another isn't in the cards anytime soon.

Like all bad teams, the Wizards suffer in the key areas of basketball: namely scoring, assists and field goal percentage. The Wiz ranks fourth from the bottom in points per game at 87.6 and they're second-to-last in assists at 16.1 and field goal percentage at 40.8% (they're in the bottom five for three-point percentage, too). Conversely, the Nuggets are in the top two in those three categories. In just looking at the numbers, these two squads could hardly be more different. In fact, the only thing the Wizards have going for them over Denver are their new pseudo-retro jerseys that take us back to the days when they were the Washington Bullets (with the Warriors, Jazz and now Wizards rocking the past-meets-the-future jerseys, it's about time the Nuggets consider it for more than just a few games this season!).

In fairness to Wizards head coach Flip Saunders, he doesn't have a lot to work with. Among his six leading scorers, all except center JaVale McGee shoot under 40% from the field. (How does Wall's 37.6% shooting compare with Ty Lawson's 48.3%, both point guards.) And it seems as though the Wizards dealt away one head case in Gilbert Arenas for another in Andray Blatche (more on him below).

But as we witnessed with the Thunder on Wednesday night, even the lowly Wizards are capable of a big effort on any given night. Could this be a trap game for the road-weary and suddenly injury-riddled Nuggets? Or a walkover before the big Saturday game against Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks in New York?

The Nuggets should be good enough to dictate the answer to that question themselves.

Scouting the Wizards ...

Wizards Non-Stiffs

John Wall: Wall's shooting percentage (and shot selection) is atrocious but this youngster still has huge upside and will probably find himself playing in a few All-Star Games before his career is done.

JaVale McGee: When he's not getting benched by Saunders for showboating, McGee is actually pretty imposing at the center position where he's averaging a league second-best 3.0 blocks per game.

Wizards Stiffs

Andray Blatche: Regarded by many as a cancer in the Wizards' locker room, the DC fans had finally had enough with the will-never-reach-his-potential Blatche and booed him before the Thunder game on Wednesday (to which Blatche responded with a solid double-double, go figure). Blatche's continued run-ins with Saunders and his own teammates means his days in Washington are numbered.

Rashard Lewis: Lewis is the second-highest paid player in the NBA. I repeat: Lewis is the second-highest paid player in the NBA. And he's delivering 8.9 ppg on 37.4% shooting from the field and 24.1% from three-point range, his supposed specialty.

Final Thought ...

Returning to New York for the first time since the big Carmelo Anthony trade last February probably has the Nuggets - and especially Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov - collectively distracted. They will need to put that looming distraction aside and pick up this gimme game in Washington on Friday. Because Melo and the Knicks, despite their poor play of late, will be amped for that Saturday outing and will be very tough to beat.