Preview: Wizards close road trip Thursday in Denver
The Wizards close out their four-game road trip on Thursday, taking on the Nuggets at 9:00 P.M ET at Ball Arena. The Wizards are 2-1 on the trip, earning wins over the Blazers and Lakers, but are looking to bounce back from a loss to the Clippers on Tuesday night. Denver is coming off a five-point win over Portland.
The Wizards will be without sharpshooter Davis Bertans (right knee soreness) who head coach Scott Brooks described as day-to-day. Thursday will be the fourth game Bertans has missed this season, but the first due to injury. He missed three games in January due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Ball Arena | 9:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Bradley Beal, G – Garrison Mathews, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Moe Wagner
Nuggets: G – Monte Morris, G – Jamal Murray, F – Will Barton, F – Michael Porter Jr., C – Nikola Jokic
Wizards: Davis Bertans (right knee soreness – out), (Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Ish Smith (right quadriceps strain – out)
Nuggets: PJ Dozier (right hamstring strain – out), JaMychal Green (left shoulder sprain – out), Gary Harris (left adductor strain – out), Paul Millsap (left knee sprain – out), Greg Whittington (left knee arthroscopy – doubtful)
Wizards keeping their eyes forward, win or lose
With their five-game winning streak now in the past, the Wizards face a challenge they struggled with earlier in the season: responding to a loss. Brooks said throughout the 10-day run of wins that the team was always focused on the next game, meaning that he didn’t attribute any of the struggles on Tuesday night against the Clippers to complacency. Brooks added that he appreciates that the group is “pretty level-headed,” whether they are winning or losing.
Moe Wagner, who scored a season-high 21 points against the Clippers, said he doesn’t worry about streaks and instead tries to take what he can from each game, regardless of result, and apply it to the next.
“I don’t care about streaks,” Wagner said. “That’s some media stuff. It sounds good, but to me, that’s superficial…We have to find a way to be consistently good and bounce back from losses. I think everybody knows that. We’re experienced enough to understand that and not get down on ourselves with a loss. I think that’s what we did in the first half of the season a little bit and it cost us. We’ve learned from that. We have to keep building and keep moving forward.
A short wait for a rematch
The Wizards and Nuggets met just over one week ago at Capital One Arena, a Washington win that came down to the wire. Three 3-pointers in the final 1:59 of the game from Denver’s Jamal Murray erased a nine-point Wizards lead, but Bradley Beal drew a foul on a driving layup with 0.1 seconds left on the clock and hit both free throws to secure the win. While Beal closed the game for the Wizards, it was Bertans who stole the spotlight that night, setting career highs in points (35) and 3-pointers made (9). Washington will look to recreate some of that shooting, likely through Beal and Garrison Mathews with Bertans out of the lineup.
On the defensive end, the Wizards can take a lot from their first matchup of the season against Nikola Jokic. After scoring 15 points in the first quarter on 6-6 (1.000) shooting, Brooks assigned Alex Len to the Denver big man. In the second quarter, he scored just two points on 1-6 (.166) shooting. Jokic finished with 30 on the night, but the Wizards were able to get a good idea of what can and cannot work against one of the best offensive centers in the league.
Denver’s offense rolling since matchup with Wizards
Since their loss to the Wizards on February 17, the Nuggets have won two of three games, including a five-point win over the surging Trail Blazers on Tuesday night. In the win, Jokic scored a game-high 41 points on 17-32 (.531) shooting, the second-most shots he’s attempted in a game this season. Jokic’s scoring outburst snapped a two-game streak of scoring fewer than 20 points. In their three games since facing the Wizards last week, Denver ranks second in the league with a 121.0 offensive rating and eighth in the league with a 5.3 net rating. While Jokic stole the show on Wednesday, it has been Murray leading the way for Denver in the last week. In the last three games, Murray is averaging 34.7 points per game on 61.9% shooting to go along with 5.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He scored 50 points in a 17-point win over the Cavaliers on Friday, shooting 8-10 (.800) from 3-point range.