On what was a special night for the Washington Wizards franchise, the Denver Nuggets played the role of spoiler. Wizards great Phil Chenier was honored as he had his jersey raised to the rafters. It was well deserving and a long time coming, but this current Wizards team couldn’t top the evening off with a win. Turnovers and general lack of urgency played a big role in their falling into a hole they just couldn’t climb out of. Baltimore native Will Barton scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, he combined with Jamal Murray(25 points) and Nikola Jokic (25 points) to score 73 of Denver’s 108 points. Washington was led by Bradley Beal’s 24 points and Markieff Morris (17 points) had a big third quarter. The Wizards also got 15 points from Kelly Oubre off the bench, they out rebounded the Nuggets by eight and shot better than them from the floor. The turnover differential was the opposite, Washington turned it over 17 times to Denver’s 10. It was also clear that the visitors played with a sense of urgency, they were playing desperate, like a team fighting for their playoff lives and it paid off.
“What he has done for our organization and the city and the game of basketball. He’s a great ambassador and we all love him. It’s well deserved. It’s going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time that we step into this building. He’s a special person. Too bad we didn’t get the win, but it had nothing to do with this night for him and his family and all of us. He’s a special person and I’m grateful that I got a couple of years to get to know him.” -Brooks on Chenier
The game started with Washintgon taking a two point lead as Marcin Gortat scored the opening basket by way of a baseline jumper. Will Barton responded a couple of possessions later with Denver’s first basket, a triple. Turnovers haunted the Wizards early in this one, the four turnovers led to them getting less shots than the Nuggets. Even though they shot better than the visiting team from Denver, Washintgon fell behind in the turnover margin pretty early. The Nuggets took advantage of this, none more so then Jamal Murray who scored 11 of his team’s first 19 points. Bradley Beal led the way for Washington with seven points and Gortat had six. Still, Washington couldn’t avoid turning the ball over and they trailed by seven to start the second quarter.
“It’s urgency; we have to play with more urgency. We can’t just go out there like it’s another game. It’s a valuable game for us. We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game.” – Scott Brooks
Ramon Sessions and Ian Mahinmi led the Wizards on a quick 5-0 run to start the second period. Denver immediately responded, rookie Torrey Craig scored back-to-back baskets to spark the Nuggets. With about 7 minutes left in the half, Murray started getting hot. He scored nine points over the next four minutes, he las of which was a 30 foot triple hat pushed the lead to 13. Again, turnovers reared their ugly head for Washington. Consecutive turnovers with 35 seconds left, led o a Wilson Chandler layup and a pull up triple from Will Barton.
Nine first half turnovers played a huge role in Washington’s 12 point halftime deficit. Beal and Mahinmi led the way with 10 and 8 points respectively, Murray had 2o points to lead all scorers. Washington also shot better than the Nuggets and out rebounded them, it was literally the turnovers. That gave Denver 12 more shot attempts than Washington.
Denver looked to be picking up where they left off after Jokic hit back-to-back triples to start the second half. Instead, it was Markieff Morris leading a charge for Washington. After hitting just four three pointers in the first half, Washington would hit seven in the period alone. Morris scored 11 of his 17 points in the period, he wasn’t alone as Beal was just as hot with nine points. The Wizards shot 63.2% from the floor and 58.3% from beyond the arc, they outscored Denver 33-22. The Wizards used an 11-5 run to take the lead, although it was brief. A quick barrage of three pointers in the form of Oubre, Beal, and Morris is what nearly erased the 14 point lead Denver held at one point. Devin Harris hit a couple of big triples to keep the Wizards at bay. Similar to the impact Craig had in the first half for the Nuggets, veteran guard Harris scored eight points, six of which were extremely timely. Despite the big quarter from Washington, Denver held a two point lead at the end of the period. The shot attempt margin was still at 12 at this point, Denver was shooting worse, but they put up more shots.
The final period started slow for both teams, but Denver was able to create a bit of separation. Again, Washington would respond as they cut the deficit to two courtesy of a Sessions layup in transition. It was a beautiful finish by the reserve guard, he used a euro-step to cleanly beat the defender. Denver continued to score, giving themselves a bit of breathing room. Satoransky found Keef for a short jumper to cut the deficit to one with 6:29 left in the game. Washington had quieted the inferno that was Jamal Murray, but Barton stepped up for his team. He went on a personal 5-0 run after that Morris basket. First he hit a three pointer very late in the shot clock, on the ensuing Denver possession, he got to the rim and drew a foul. The Nuggets held a six point lead after Barton’s mini-run. The Wizards responded with a 5-0 run of their own, Beal knocked down a midrange jumpshot and Satoranksy drilled a three from the top of the circle. Washington got a stop on the next possession and Porter scored on a runner to give the Wizards a 93-92 lead with 4:21 seconds left.
Murray would hit his fifth triple of the evening, followed by a hook shot from Jokic. The Nuggets regained the lead, an Oubre layup was countered by another long range bomb from Barton. That shot took the air out of the building and put the Wizards down by five with 1:22 left in the game. The Wizards called a timeout, the ensuing possession lacked quality. It resulted in an ill advised shot by Oubre that was blocked by Barton, with 1:11 left on the game clock Washington started to play the foul game. They cut the lead to four on a Beal triple with 33.6 seconds left, then Washington forced a turnover on the inbound. Down four with the ball, they had an opportunity but Beal couldn’t capitalize. Barton got the rebound and was fouled, he took care of business at the line on that possession and the following one to ice the win for the Nuggets.
The Wizards have a day off before hosting the New York Knicks on Sunday evening at Capital One Arena.