Denver 75, Washington 74, Game 20 of 82
The beat goes on for the Wizards. Still no Nene and no Martell Webster. The team is a quarter of the way through the regular season, so adjustments to the regular rotation are becoming a way of life. Washington’s diminished depth would be tested by a Denver team that thrives on transition baskets and quality depth.
Denver (13-8) was finishing up a six-game Eastern Conference swing. The Nuggets average 104 points per game, so the Wizards holding them to 75 is a positive. Unfortunately for Washington (9-11), they only scored 74 in a tough loss.
The first quarter matched Washington’s starters against Denver’s depth. In the post, Marcin Gortat asserted himself early, scoring 12 points in the quarter. Denver used ten players in the quarter, and five of them scored. Wilson Chandler led the Nuggets with 7 in the period. Washington led 22-18 after one period.
John Wall’s 10 points set the pace in the second quarter. Denver’s depth made up for any fatigue from the long road trip. Chandler’s 12 first-half points kept them close. Washington held a 45-40 lead at the half.
The third quarter saw a Wall jumper give the Wizards take their biggest lead of the night, 58-46, with 5:48 left. That’s when Denver’s Nate Robinson went to work. The hard-nosed point guard scored eight in the last two minutes of the quarter to bring the Nuggets back within 2,
The fourth quarter was intense and hard-fought. It wasn’t artistic, but both teams fought hard for the win. The last two minutes were wild. After Trevor Booker converted two free throws to give the Wizards a 74-73 lead, both teams missed three-pointers but gained offensive rebounds through sheer effort. After the Wizards’ second chance attempt (Wall’s layup attempt blocked by Kenneth Faried), the Nuggets’ Robinson drove hard towards the lane. His nifty pass to a cutting Faried resulted in a dunk that gave Denver a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Washington came down and tried similar, but Trevor Ariza’s pass towards Gortat went awry. Perhaps Gortat should have rolled to the basket instead of drifting towards the baseline. In any event, the turnover gave the ball to Denver.
On the subsequent inbound pass, Glen Rice, Jr., stole the ball to give the Wizards hope. Shots from Wall, Garrett Temple, and Ariza wouldn’t fall. Robinson’s stripping Wall of the ball on the final drive sealed the win for the visiting Nuggets.
Washington shot 36% from the field, and tallied 46 rebounds, 18 assists on 32 baskets, 10 steals, 14 turnovers and 7 blocked shots. Wall had 20 points and 8 assists. Gortat added 16 points and 8 rebounds. Ariza added 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Booker (starting in place of Nene) added 12 points and 12 rebounds. Washington’s bench got outscored 34-5. On some level, the injuries are starting to take a toll.
Denver shot 41.1% from the floor, and totaled 48 rebounds, 19 assists on 30 baskets, 10 steals, 20 turnovers and 4 blocked shots. Wilson Chandler led the Nuggets with 17 and 8 rebounds. Nate Robinson came off the bench to add 16 points. Denver showed a classic case of “the sum being greater than the individual parts”. They played eleven guys, and ten of them scored.
Washington now travels to Atlanta (Friday) before coming home to match up with the Los Angeles Clippers (Saturday, 14 December).
Monday’s loss showed Washington’s improving depth. As players get healthy & incorporated into the rotation, the team’s production should stabilize. Washington should match up well with a Hawks team they beat on 30 November. The Clippers, though, are another story. Their up-tempo style gives many teams trouble. Washington can run, but should they run with the Clippers?
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