Denver Nuggets 110, Washington Wizards 112: Three takeaways
The Nuggets got top performances from their big three of Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., but it wasn’t enough as the team lost 112-110 to the Wizards.
Murray had a game-high 34 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists while Jokić put up 24 points, 11 rebounds, and seven dimes in the defeat. The Wizards were paced by Bradley Beal, who had 33 points and four assists. Russell Westbrook finished the night with a triple-double, putting up 16 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds.
The Nuggets rallied after trailing by as many as 12, but several key breakdowns on the offensive end ultimately cost the team. The team will now start a four-game road trip, starting at the Thunder (6 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE), to close out the first half of the season.
Here are the takeaways:
Nuggets affected by turnovers and late execution
The Nuggets arguably had two opportunities to either tie or win the game in the final minute of the contest, but made questionable decisions in both possessions.
Michael Porter Jr. got a wide-open three at the 30-second mark and passed the ball to Murray for a contested shot. In the final five seconds of the game, Jamal Murray had two defenders on him to beat on the way to the rim to tie the game. Instead of driving inside, he found an open Facundo Campazzo for a three. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, the Argentine’s shot didn’t go in and the Wizards walked away with another late victory against Denver. There was also a lack of cutting to the rim on the final play. While Murray was right to look for the open man, the final play overall could have been executed better.
"I gave Facu [Facundo Campazzo] a bad pass, I gave him a really bad pass, and I didn't look at the clock either. That's why I put it on me. If I'm going to stop at a three, I have to shoot it," Murray said after the game.
Denver was also affected by turnovers once again. Less than 48 hours from setting an NBA-record for the fewest giveaways in a game with just one, the Nuggets’ poor habits reemerged in that area. The home team had 18 turnovers, which the visitors converted for 23 points. Considering the Nuggets’ overall struggles on offense, those points off turnovers were back-breaking for the team.
"Coming off of a game where we had 25 assists and only one turnover, and then you follow that up with a performance of 18 [turnovers] for 23 points," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "You make it really hard to beat anybody when that's the case."
Facu makes an impact on defense
Campazzo struggled to shoot the ball, going 1 of 8 for five points, but his performance on the other end was well-felt by the Wizards.
The Nuggets’ reserve sparkplug was all over the floor and his defensive intensity earned him a chance to guard both of the Wizards stars in Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook. Beal was visibly frustrated whenever Campazzo guarded him, showcasing just how effective the Nuggets guard was. Despite being 5-foot-11, Campazzo finished the night tied with Jokić and Murray for the game-high in blocks with two.
MPJ carving niche
Michael Porter Jr. has been quietly impactful in his last two outings and a lot of it has come from a willingness to do the dirty work. For a second-straight game, the second-year forward tallied a double-double with 18 points and 10 boards.
With minimal offensive plays being called for the 22-year-old, he has capitalized on finding offense through putbacks or taking advantage of double teams to score from downtown. He was also key in crashing the boards and using his 6-foot-11 frame to make deflections. One key play came at the 6:06 mark where Porter Jr. got a hand on the ball while Bradley Beal was dribbling. Although Beal regained possession, the guard had to pass out to Rui Hachimura as the shot clock was close to expiring. The Wizards would be called for an offensive foul a second later.
For a player who had sky-high expectations placed on him upon arriving in the NBA, his willingness to fight for team-focused plays is a step in the right direction. While he might have been a bit too unselfish when he passed up an open three in the dying seconds of the game, his overall effort was positive on the night. There is no question Porter Jr.’s potential remains elite, but on a team with aspirations of contention, it is key for him to find an effective fit alongside Jokić and Murray. In the last two games, he has taken a step in the right direction.