A week off was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Denver Nuggets. Looking refreshed and focused they took care of business against a woeful Washington Wizards team. The Nuggets got up by double-digits in the first quarter and never looked back. Nikola Jokic was absolutely dominant and tonight three of the other four starters put up nice performances beside him. The only downside was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope appeared to jam his pinkie finger and was not able to finish the game. It was a comedy of errors and missed bunnies on the Washington side as they looked every bit of a team that has only won nine games by the end of March. Good job by the good guys on taking care of business, they head to Portland on the back of a 130-110 victory.

The Nuggets opened the game by being intentional on offense. Jokic orchestrated, hitting Michael Porter Jr. for a three and then getting two shots in the lane. It wasn’t all roses though, Washington kept pace early on and Pope hurt his hand getting a steal. Denver pushed the lead up to seven on the back of MPJ which forced a Washington timeout. Jamal Murray got cooking next while Kyle Kuzma chucked low percentage shots. Jokic hit Aaron Gordon with a classic full court pass and the lead was up to ten. Denver wasn’t getting a great whistle though which got Malone an early technical foul. The Nuggets maintained their lead as the quarter winded down and Murray continued to look fantastic. On Washington’s side it was Jordan Poole’s turn to chuck low percentage shots. Jokic checked out for Zeke Nnaji who had a nice sequence with a block followed by a dunk off a nice feed from Murray. Denver wrapped up a fantastic first quarter with a 38-25 lead.

One Nugget who was struggling was Christian Braun, after picking up a foul on an and-1 near the end of the first quarter he opened the second fouling Poole on a three point shot but he recovered quickly with a nice drive to the lane for a floater and then after a huge Peyton Watson block Braun got an and-1 of his own. The teams continued to trade baskets, Nnaji got another block and the talent difference was pretty clear when Poole air balled a three. Porter continued to play outstanding. He wasn’t getting his three to fall but was crashing the offensive glass and getting easy putbacks. Washington called a timeout when they fell behind by fifteen but after the TO they turned the ball over on the inbound and gave up a wide open dunk to Gordon on the Nuggets subsequent inbound prompting a second Washington timeout nine seconds later. Jokic came back in and start diming up his teammates to put a first-half triple double in play (he already had a double-double as he was inhaling everything on the glass). Everything was just too easy for Denver, with three minutes to go the lead had ballooned up to twenty-five. Denver got a bit lackadaisical closing out the quarter, probably because of the monster lead they were riding, but the Wizards continued to be awful shooting from the floor. Jokic ended up an assist shy of the triple double at the break and Denver led 72-49.

The open to the second half wasn’t great for the Nuggets. Braun opened the half in place of KCP in the starting lineup and some sloppy play let Washington cut in the lead a bit while Gordon got himself in foul trouble. Things calmed down after that, Jokic quickly picked up his triple double but Kuzma was in full volume scorer mode (honestly with the number of missed layups I wouldn’t be passing to my teammates either). Denver was able to get their lead back up to the twenty-five range quickly and it was looking like it would be an early night for the starters. The benches started coming in with the quarter around the half way point and it became the Watson show. He had another block that he followed with a ferocious jam and-1 and then shortly after that he had another impressive denial. Denver’s defense started to get a bit lazy otherwise though and Watson was only one man. The Wizards knocked down some threes and while Peyton had ANOTHER swat at the rim, it ended up right in the hands of Deni Avdija and resulted in another Wizards three. With two minutes to go the lead was down to sixteen and Jokic was on the bench. Denver’s defense refocused and stopped the bleeding to close out the third. Going into the fourth they led 101-83.

The defense picked right back up where it left off after the third. The Nuggets got two steals on the first two Wizards possessions and cashed them in for four points. Justin Holiday, who was playing because KCP was out, in particular was being disruptive and generating steals. After another Nnaji block Holiday cashed a three and Washington had to take a timeout with the lead back up to twenty-six. That worked for the Wizards who hit three straight threes and just like that it was back to seventeen and it was Michael Malone calling a timeout. As either the hero or the villain, depending on where you landed on the total points over/under, Malone brought Jokic back in after the break. That naturally restored order. Reggie Jackson, who was having a tough night, got some easy baskets and then Jokic made a silly good spin move in the lane to get another basket and that was all she wrote. With just over four minutes to go the Wizards took a timeout, both teams unloaded their bench and garbage time was on. The deep bench was able to keep the lead above twenty as the game went into the final minute, with Nnaji leading the way. Washington made a small run in the last sixty seconds but ultimately this one goes to Denver 130-110.

Best matchup: the Nuggets vs complacency

A lot of excuses the Nuggets could have used tonight. First game back from the break, easy opponent to overlook, they lost a starter in the first half, could have taken their foot off the gas with the big lead, it was all there but Denver didn’t give in to it. It was refreshing after the way the Nuggets went into the break to see them come out of it playing with purpose. Joker absolutely dominated, ending the night with twenty-one points, nineteen rebounds, fifteen assists and shooting perfect from the field. MPJ and Murray both had their moments and played a big part in putting this away early. Gordon was solid, the bench played well, it was an all around focused effort (with a few minor lapses) and it showed. Now, listen, I get it. No offense to the Wizards fans but you watched that game too. You know that team is really bad more than I do. The Nuggets SHOULD look like that against a team that bad. Still, Denver did exactly what they needed to do tonight and you can’t ask for more.

Watson and Nnaji the Swat Bros?

As someone who has been critical of Zeke’s play, I would be absolutely remiss if I did not mention how fantastic his game was tonight. THAT Zeke Nnaji is a guy who should be getting around twenty minutes a night. He played the backup five role beautifully tonight and may have had his best defensive performance of his career. He ended the night with eight points, three rebounds and four blocks. Speaking of four blocks, Swatson was in the house tonight. Peyton obliterated multiple shots at the rim and at one point seemed to be the only line of defense against Washington while his teammates were looking sluggish. He also was efficient on offense and crashed the boards. If Denver can get that type of effort out of it’s two bench bigs then you might as well just give them the Larry OB right now.

Jokic blows past the thing to bet

Joker nearly got the over on 9.5 assists in the first half and ended the night with fifteen. It was another masterclass performance from the best player in the league and an easy over to bet. +110 and Jokic trying to get a triple-double against the only team in the NBA (other than the Nuggets of course) that he had yet to accomplish that feat? Easy money.