The Denver Nuggets came into the night undermanned and outmatched and it showed. Without Nikola Jokic and Danilo Gallinari both out due to illness the Nuggets were missing their two best players and that, along with poor defensive effort would be their undoing against the Washington Wizards. The Wizards young core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr scored at will all night long which overshadowed a nice night from Denver’s guards and the Nuggets dropped their second of the last three as they lose 123-113.
Both teams started the game with a burst of energy. The Nuggets were sharing the ball on offense, with Gary Harris leading the way. There was little in the way of defense on either side so the Wizards were able to counter each of Denver’s baskets early on with the Nuggets leading 18-16 at the six minute mark, from that point on it was downhill for about two quarters. The lead went back and forth with Beal and Wall doing most of the damage on Washington’s side. With the quarter drawing to a close coach Malone went with Emmanuel Mudiay at the point guard to try to slow down Wall but some sloppy play right at the end of the quarter left the Nuggets trailing 35-28
Throwin’ it down with some G-Force. pic.twitter.com/bLCuLiN3Nn— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) March 9, 2017
Denver’s struggles continued into the second quarter allowing the Wizards an extended 14-2 run before suddenly Darrell Arthur nailed a pair of threes to bring the Nuggets back within four. Then when Washington fought back it was Mudiay who kept the pressure on by getting to the basket but the defense was lacking again which let the Wizards keep the lead right below double digits. Then when the Nuggets offense stalled their defense didn’t pick up the slack and Washington’s lead continued to grow. Wilson Chandler pushed back for Denver with the half coming to an end but the damage was done and Washington led by seventeen after two.
Denver opened the second half with a string of turnovers which drew a quick timeout from coach Malone and coming out of it Harris got a nice pair of baskets but the Nuggets defense continued to be a no show. It was Otto Porter Jr complementing Beal in the third quarter which as it passed the six minute mark the Wizards lead had grown to over twenty. The lone highlight for the Nuggets was a nice give and go between Jameer Nelson and Chandler, who was leading the team in scoring, that ended with a Wilson slam. Denver finally made some headway on the Wizards lead late in the third when Harris and Jamal Murray heated up from outside to carry the Nuggets on a 16-5 run and bring them back within twelve at the end of the quarter.
Mason Plumlee opened the final quarter with an easy jam and the Wizards offense finally started to cool off a bit which opened the door for the Nuggets but they went cold from the floor and wasted the opportunity, forcing coach Malone to take a timeout when the lead got back to sixteen. Out of the T.O. the glimmer of hope for Nuggets fans was Murray started to heat up, both in getting to the basket and hitting from outside. Denver could have got within striking distance but Washington got back to doing what they did all night which was score. To give the Nuggets, particularly Murray and Harris, credit they refused to go away, keeping the game just barely within striking distance. Unfortunately as it went down the stretch, they just didn’t have enough and each time it looked like the game could get dangerously close the Wizards did just enough to push back ahead. Denver would push it as close as 8 points with under two minutes to go but Porter hit a dagger three with 53 seconds left to finish the Nuggets off and saddle them with the L.
Best matchup: Gary Harris vs Bradley Beal
Each of these guys went at each other all night long. Harris helped the Nuggets get off to a solid start and kept scoring throughout trying to keep Denver in it but Beal was one of many Wizards who responded with big shots all night. Both players showed their ability to score but questionable defense which made for an entertaining match up all game long. Unfortunately for the Nuggets the theme of simply trying to outscore the opponent was prevalent for everyone involved, not just Gary, which is why the Wizards won but there was a good glimpse of a potential future back court for Denver. Murray and Harris carried Denver late meanwhile Mudiay had some effective plays when he came off the bench in the second. A Murray/Harris/Mudiay three man rotation in the backcourt could be very potent in the future, especially playing next to Jokic.
Main thing I noticed: the defense was awful
The Wizards shot well above their season average shooting percentage from the field tonight and it wasn’t because they were just shooting out of their minds. I mean don’t get me wrong, they were hitting everything but the reason they were doing so is because Denver seemed to have little interest in contesting shots tonight. It was baffling how many times Porter, the league leading three point shooter, was left open in particular and so it should really have been no surprise that his dagger three was a wide open shot from the corner. The Nuggets were short handed and overmatched yes, but the defense certainly needed to be better.
Closing thought: Now you have to get Boston
The Nuggets dropping the game against the Charlotte Hornets put pressure on them to perform well in the final three games of the four game homestand. They took care of business against the Sacramento Kings but now they have to get the game against the Boston Celtics or they end up going 1-3 in the four games at home. Granted they’ll be back to Denver after just one game in Sacramento but two of those games are against the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets. Without a victory at Boston the Nuggets would have to steal one of those two games just to go 4-4 on this 7 out of 8 at home stretch.