Denver Nuggets 128, Washington Wizards 130: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

In the dying seconds of a tightly-contested fourth quarter, Jamal Murray connected on a three-pointer from the Wizards’ half-court logo to tie the game at 128. It was one of the best shots in the 23-year-old’s young career. Unfortunately for Michael Malone and the Nuggets, it wasn’t enough as Bradley Beal hit two free throws with 0.1 remaining to ice a 130-128 win for Washington.

Denver led by as many as 19 in the first half off the efforts of a 41-point first quarter, but the Wizards fought back off a 19-7 run in the second quarter. Washington had a 13-point lead before Murray helped spark a valiant fourth quarter comeback.

Murray was tied for the game-high in scoring with 35 points to go along with nine rebounds and six assists. His star teammate Nikola Jokić was also dominant, putting up 33 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Despite another strong night from the Nuggets’ leading duo, the team’s overall defense struggled to contain Washington – particularly Davis Bertans.

The Wizards’ sixth man had a career night, putting up a personal best in points (35) and nine threes. He missed only two shots on Wednesday.

"I would sum it up [this game] by saying you have to play 48 minutes," Malone said before later adding. "The guys are pissed off. We obviously came on this road trip trying to build on the three-game win streak that we had." 

Denver has now lost on consecutive nights and will look to regroup in Cleveland when it faces the Cavaliers (5 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).

Here are the takeaways:

Defense and free throw disparity prove costly

“Know why you win.”

It’s been a common quote from Malone, a defensive-minded coach who has seen his team have inconsistent efforts in that area all season. During his six years as head coach, he has built the Nuggets into contenders due to his focus in the area.

On Wednesday, Denver didn’t have an answer for Bertans or the Wizards’ barrage of three-pointers. The team hit 15 on 45.5 percent shooting. The struggles extended further than just threes.

Washington’s bench outscored Denver’s 71-35 and the team shot 51.2 percent from the field. The free throw disparity also didn’t help, with the Wizards taking 34 free throws to the Nuggets’ 18.

With Gary Harris and Monte Morris returning from injury in the contest and working their way back, the hope will be both men can be difference makers on Friday.

Jamal proves heroic

With the Wizards defending and pressing at the three-point line, Murray did the unthinkable. He extended his range to near halfcourt and buried an absolutely clutch jumper to give the Nuggets a chance of winning the game.

Although the result wasn’t what the Nuggets wanted, they have to be encouraged by the hot streak Murray is on. With the Nuggets trailing by seven entering the final 12 minutes of the contest, Murray connected 4 of 5 from long range and dropped an absurd 19 points in the fourth.

The efforts of Jokić also has to be acknowledged and Facundo Campazzo is also continuing to gain momentum. The Argentine finished the night with 14 points and two steals off the bench.

Turnovers, transition defense an issue again

Denver had 13 turnovers on the night, which on the surface isn’t horrible. The team’s average is 13.8 (10th in the NBA). The problem is defending after those mistakes.

The Nuggets gave up 24 points off of their turnovers. Good teams don’t beat themselves, but this is the second straight night where the team gave away a lot of points on its errors. It’s an area the team will need to improve if it wants to get back to winning on Friday.

"In this trip, at Boston and Washington, our turnovers have fueled their breaks. That's where it starts," Malone said. 

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