The Nuggets were able to eke out a much needed road victory to pick up their 40th win of the season on Friday night. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray scored 25 points each, and Denver held off a late surge led by Bradley Beal to keep playoff hopes alive.

The game started out pretty slow. Will Barton gave himself the green light to shoot whenever he wanted, but it was Jamal Murray who got things going for the Nuggets. Murray hit two early threes on his way to 11 first quarter points. Denver went on an 11-2 run early on, but hot shooting from Bradley Beal kept Washington in it. Overall, both teams struggled to score as Denver led 23-16 at the end of the first quarter.

Ian Mahinmi started the second quarter by powering his way to two dunks, only to be countered Torrey Craig who put up seven points of his own. Washington chipped at Denver’s slight lead, but then Murray and Jokic checked back in. Murray drained two three-pointers and Jokic added a three of his own to put the Nuggets up by 13. Following a Washington timeout, however, the Wizards put up seven quick points to cut the lead. Denver responded, though, and went into half up 55-43 led by Murray’s 20 points.

Jokic drilled a couple of threes to start the second half, but Otto Porter responded with two threes of his own to prompt a Malone timeout. Markieff Morris then took over by scoring 11 points in a variety of ways before Beal hit a three to bring it within four. Beal continued to hit threes and the Wizards took the lead after climbing out of a 14 point deficit, but Devin Harris hit some threes as well and the Nuggets held a two point lead heading into the fourth.

Denver tried to pull away in the early goings of the fourth but never succeeded as Washington was able to keep within striking distance at all times. Otto Porter gave the Wizards the lead with a little over four minutes to go before the Nuggets regained it. Both teams struggled to score for a few minutes, but Barton hit a huge three to put Denver up five with over a minute left. Barton then made his free throws to seal it. Nuggets win, 108-100.

Game Thoughts

It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it was a much needed win. Murray was hot in the first half but was pretty quiet in the second, Jokic played well all night and Barton had a huge fourth quarter to help hold off the late Washington run. Millsap was questionable before the game with illness and he sure played like it, letting Markieff Morris go off in the third. Interestingly, Millsap wasn’t on the floor to close the game. Mason Plumlee was a negative in almost every aspect. Watching him next to Jokic in particular remains painful.

The race for 8 is still not over. Even with the tough road games next week, it’s a good sign that Denver’s defense was able to clamp down a bit and produce a win over a playoff team. On to the next!