Nikola Jokic shrugged off concerns of his inability to score as of late with 29 points, nine rebounds and five assists, but his eight turnovers were apropos for the evening, a game high for both teams.
All five of the Wizards starters scored in double figures, with Bradley Beal leading the way with 20 points on 17 field goal attempts. John Wall had a double-double with 19 points and 12 assists, taking 15 free throw attempts as he caused havoc on offense all game long.
The game started off well for Denver, with the starting lineup getting some points on the board. Jokic lead the way with 12 points, going 5 for 5 from the field to put to rest any concerns of him being unable to score the basketball. The Wizards stayed with the Nuggets with Otto Porter knocking down a few threes while his teammates spread out the scoring under the direction of John Wall, who had four assists in the quarter.
The second unit took a few possessions to get comfortable, but a deep three from Malik Beasley (yeah he got minutes) kickstarted them and they were able to go on a 9-0 run with a lineup of Mudiay-Beasley-Barton-Faried-Jokic to help give the starters some breathing room. They would have had a big lead, but five turnovers kept them from truly putting some points on the scoreboard.
The Wizards’ starters turned up the pressure on defense against the Nuggets starters, and John Wall started dissecting the Nuggets defense in the pick and roll with Marcin Gortat. Washington took the lead for the first time in the game, 52-51, and finished the quarter swapping buckets to hold onto a one-point lead.
After halftime, the Wizards came out like gangbusters, taking advantage of a string of Nuggets turnovers to pad their lead. When the Nuggets weren’t turning the ball over, they were resorting to hero-ball, chucking up bad shots. The Wizards had 21 points off turnovers after three quarters, just another example of the struggles that come with a young point guard rotation. The bench saved the day again, closing the lead down to one point at the end of the quarter.
The fourth quarter was similar to the second at the start. The reserves tried to close the gap, turned the ball over a bit, and then gave way to the starters. The Wizards called a timeout once their lead dropped down to three points, and Bradley Beal knocked down a jumper to get the lead back to two possessions. The Wizards went small, choosing to put Otto Porter Jr. on Paul Millsap and space the floor to get points against the Nuggets defense.
The Nuggets made things interesting at the end, but too much east to west basketball made for difficult shots and they showed their inexperience, unable to close the gap and losing by five points.
The Nuggets young backcourt is their biggest weakness. The Nuggets miss Jameer Nelson, in the sense that when the game starts getting out of hand, they don’t have anyone to turn to to help stabilize the situation. After three games, when things have gotten out of control, each player on the court has tried to take control of the game. It’s not an effective solution, and it reared it’s ugly head again tonight.
The Wizards turned up the heat in the third quarter, and the Nuggets couldn’t respond. Once the Wizards decided they were done toying with the Nuggets, they made a comeback, but the control of the game was always in the hands of the veteran Eastern Conference squad.
Jokic can score. Oh hey, turns out he’s capable of getting the ball in the hoop. Don’t worry about Jokic. He’ll be fine, it’ll just take some time.
The Nuggets defense is ... fine? Holding the Wizards to 109 points is a noble performance, especially in a game where they were able to get so many points in transition after turnovers. It’s going to be tough for a lot of teams to stop John Wall, and the Nuggets weren’t able to, but they did a good enough job keeping things close. Eliminate those turnovers, and this team could make some noise later in the season.