The first night of a back-to-back for your Denver Nuggets tonight, taking on the Washington Wizards at the Pepsi Center with Ty Lawson back on the court. I had a guest for the game, and tonight looked like a fun evening.
The Nuggets look focused early, with good defensive rotations (for the most part), and good shot selection. Denver holds their own through the first half of the quarter, with Washington taking their first lead at 14-13. Jusuf Nurkic finds himself in early foul trouble, with three fouls in the first seven minutes, opening up the front court more for Washington, as Nurkic leaves with six rebounds.
At that point, Washington starts making layups, and Denver's shooting goes a little cold. Denver fights back late on a pair of free throws by Danilo Gallinari to keep it close, but at the end of the quarter, Denver is down 28-26, with Lawson leading the way with nine points and four assists while playing all 12 minutes. As a side note, I have the great pleasure of LongWindedHank joining me for tonight's game here at home before Hank and the SoCal Stiffs head to the Clippers game tomorrow night. A lot of fun, as Hank is as witty and incisive in person, so I'm learning a lot tonight.
Offense is plentiful from both sides of the floor, with Jameer Nelson entering the game to drop in three quick three-pointers over Andre Miller. Off of those scores, Denver builds up a six-point lead four minutes into the quarter. The lead is short-lived, however, and by the six-minute mark, Washington had made the difference back. Denver takes a timeout to stop the bleeding. But Washington comes back in hot, and makes their points on an 11-0 run up to the four-minute mark.
After that, the battle goes down low, and J.J. Hickson also finds himself in foul trouble down low. Suddenly, both of Denver's centers (I use the term loosely for J.J.) have three fouls a piece going into halftime. Thank goodness for solid three point shooting from Denver keeping them in the game, and Nene and Faried are having quite the battle of the ponytails down low. Denver struggles repeatedly with Defensive rebounding, giving up second, third, and fourth chances to the Wizard far too often, and is consistently playing catch up from there. Fortunately, Ty is able to pour in 13 points by the half, and going into the break, the Nuggets pull even with the Wizards at 59.
Denver comes out of the gates hot, Ty in particular, and goes on a 5-0 run in the first two minutes. Some gritty work under the boards by Nurkic, Faried and Wilson Chandler extends the lead to eight two minutes later. Both teams continue to push the pace, and Denver is still up by eight, 75-67 halfway through the quarter. Though the Wizards keep making inroads to that lead, Denver continues to stretch the lead back with timely three pointers and putbacks down low. The lead holds up until the last three minutes of the quarter when Washington goes on a 7-0 run, and pulls within one with a minute left in the quarter. A pair of points each, leaves the Nuggets up 84-83 going into the final frame.
Washington comes out with a quick four points, and goes up by three. Gallo ties it back up out of the break with a good-looking three, and looks to be finding a rhythm. Even coming off a back-to-back, Washington is quicker to the ball in the closing quarter than the Nuggets, and they keep a two-point lead halfway through the frame.
Denver goes small with Nurkic stepping out, and takes the lead back at the four-minute mark on a Lawson floater, 99-98. Ty is catching fire, and the Nuggets lean on him for three scores in a row. The Nuggets have been sharing the ball well all night, and in the last couple minutes have five players in double figures. The Nuggets find themselves in the unenviable spot of taking tough shots and giving up easy ones to win the game, and put themselves in a tough spot to wrap up the game. Most of those easy shots they are giving up are coming under the basket, and the Nuggets look to be in a tough spot. Fortune turns their way at the last, with a sweet strip of John Wall by Lawson, and a sprint back up court by Faried. Kenneth misses the shot, but is fouled... and cannot hit either free throw. With 1 second left, the Wizards put up a prayer by Paul Pierce, and Faried brings a little redemption by blocking the shot and sending it to overtime. Oof.
You'd hope the extra period would favor Denver, with Washington coming off a tough loss last night, but the Nuggets are getting abused down low, and the Nuggets seem to have forgotten they have a center on the bench with only four fouls. Chris Humphries barely needs leave the floor to score under the basket. After a score by Wall at the hoop, and another layup by Humphries, the Nuggets need paint protection. Midway through overtime, Denver has one point off of a free throw. Darrell Arthur finally knocks down a 16-footer at the two minute mark. A defensive stop, and a Lawson turnaround gets the Nuggets back within one, but it's painfully clear who's getting the easier ends of the court.
With a half minute left, Washington is up by three, and Arthur attempts a three pointer that goes halfway down and rims back out. Afflalo puts up another on a prayer, and Denver is forced into fouling to try and stay in it. Unfortunately, Wall hit both free throws, and Hank and I are lamenting a game that looked like it could have broken our five-game losing streak. With a few seconds left, Chandler nails a three, Ty STEALS THE INBOUND, and misses a bunny to re-tie the game. The Nuggets had several opportunities to turn it around, but as they've been wont to do of late, they gave the game away.
A tough game tonight for your Denver Nuggets, with a lot of head-scratching moments in the middle of some really solid basketball. It's a microcosm of the season for the boys in blue, and your Nuggets go down to the Wizards 117-115.
What did you see, Nuggets Nation? How do we turn this thing around?