Nuggets 89-82 Wizards: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

After four long months away, Nuggets basketball returned with an 89-82 win against the Wizards in the first of three scrimmages ahead of the NBA’s restart tournament in Orlando.

Bol Bol had a mesmerizing first game as a Nugget, pouring in 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks to help his shorthanded team. Troy Daniels also shined in his first extended action for Denver, scoring a game-high 22 points and adding six rebounds. The Wizards were led by Rui Hachimura, who had 18 points and nine boards. 

"For [Bol] to go out there and get 16 [points], 10 [boards] and six blocks is great," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said after the game. "He is only going to get better. He did a lot of good things, [I'm] proud of him." 

Malone added, "We'll have two more scrimmages and he'll continue to get some opportunities to play, to grow and to learn against other NBA players."

Here are the takeaways 

Bol Bol dazzles in Nuggets debut

If Bol proved one thing in his first-ever game as a Nugget, it is that he might not have a position in the NBA. That’s a compliment, not a criticism.

Bol opened the game confidently launching threes and also switching on smaller guards. All of this is coming from a 7-foot-2 player, who prior to the team’s arrival in Orlando, had practiced with the Nuggets less than a handful of times. While the rookie still needs to work on his slender frame, he appeared to be a natural fit in the Nuggets’ position-less style of play.

Bol would finish the game shooting 42.9 percent and hitting two threes. It was a promising beginning to what could be a bright future for the Nuggets’ rookie.   

"I've been waiting a long time, just working hard and waiting for this moment," Bol said after the game. 

Video game lineup

The Nuggets opened up the contest with what might unofficially have been the tallest lineup in NBA history. Down to only eight available players, Malone started the 7-foot Nikola Jokić at point guard, Jerami Grant (6-foot-8) at power forward, Bol Bol at small forward, Paul Millsap (6-foot-7) at power forward and Mason Plumlee (6-foot-11) at center. Although it wasn’t perfect, it was definitely a lot of fun to watch.

"It wasn't pretty all the time, but give our guys credit. We had a lot of guys step in and play positions that aren't their natural, comfortable positions," Malone said after the game. "Guys competed, guys played hard and we were undermanned, but we found a way." 

The Nuggets would outrebound the Wizards 14 to 6 in the first quarter and the team’s unique blend of size and speed allowed them to get a quick five Fastbreak points in the opening 10 minutes. Denver would take a 24-19 lead into the second quarter thanks to a sizzling three swats from Bol and three assists from Jokić

Turnovers an early concern

One of the unfortunate byproducts of playing just one perimeter player in Daniels was ball control. Denver finished with 25 turnovers, including a concerning 13 in the first half. Some of it was unavoidable as the Nuggets opened the game with Grant, a power forward, at shooting guard and Bol, a center, at small forward. While both men are great ballhandlers for their size, it is literally a tall task to utilize either in breaking down defenses – especially with the Wizards lining up players in their natural positions on the other end of the floor.

"We did some good things, [but] the turnovers are out of control," Malone said. "That was the issue coming out of the All-Star break and as we can all see today, it continues to be an issue." 

Fortunately for Denver, the team should be boosted by the possible return of lead guard Jamal Murray and arguably the Nuggets’ best ballhandler in Will Barton III on Saturday. The team could also see Torrey Craig, among other players, be involved against the Pelicans.

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