Jokic, Nuggets too much for undermanned Wizards originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 141-128 on Wednesday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
The schedule did the Wizards no favors on Wednesday night, as they faced a very good Denver Nuggets team on the road, right as they are struggling to find wins and enough healthy players to field a rotation. Washington kept pace with Denver until the Nuggets pulled away in the second half, handing the Wizards their eighth-straight loss for their longest losing streak since 2012.
The Wizards have now lost 11 of their last 12 games overall. They are 11-18 on the season overall with five more games to go on a lengthy West Coast road trip.
The Wizards continue to play undermanned, as Bradley Beal missed his fifth straight game with a hamstring injury. They were also without Kristaps Porzingis, who sat for just the second time this season as he deals with back tightness.
Those guys were out, but the Nuggets had their superstar, Nikola Jokic. The Joker was nothing short of dominant with 43 points (17-20 FG), 14 rebounds, eight assists and four steals. The one blemish was his eight turnovers, but the Wizards weren't able to capitalize enough to get the win.
While the Wizards have a lot of injuries to key players right now (Rui Hachimura and Delon Wright were also missing), the Porzingis absence loomed particularly large in this game. Perhaps that was no surprise given the matchup, as the Nuggets have one of the NBA's best big men in Jokic, the back-to-back MVP. But it wasn't just Jokic, as Denver lit the Wizards up in the paint.
The Nuggets had a ridiculous 32 paint points in the first quarter alone, then another 20 in the second quarter to reach halftime with 52. For an idea of how many that is, the Nuggets average 53.2 paint points per game this season. Denver, though, didn't stop there, as they kept it rolling towards 98 total points in the paint, the most the Wizards have allowed since at least 1996-97 (as far back as NBA.com tracks the stat). Washington entered this game tied for fifth in paint defense (47.2 ppg), but clearly Porzingis is a big reason for that.
Will Barton has come back from missing two games due to a foot injury a completely different player. He had a season-high 22 points on Monday against the Nets, then followed that up with 22 points and a season-high nine assists against the Nuggets. Barton was playing his former team in this one, as he returned to Denver for the first time since they traded him to Washington in the summer. He did a good job reminding them of what he can do.
Barton found a rhythm early with 17 points on four 3-pointers with seven assists all in the first half. The assists were a career-high for Barton in a single half. Barton shot 7-for-15 overall and 4-for-8 from long range, as he kept his hot shooting rolling from the other night and flashed some 'Will the Thrill' swagger with a few no-look passes.
Monte Morris came over to the Wizards along with Barton in the offseason trade, so this was his return, too. And he also played well, coming through with 20 points and seven assists. He shot 7-for-11 from the field and 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.
Morris, though, took a tough fall on his face in the first half and chipped a front tooth. He came back in the game and played well, but he will require some dental work to fix his smile. Either that, or he could keep it as an Alex Ovechkin tribute.
Monte Morris unfortunately chipped a tooth falling on the floor in his return to Denver. pic.twitter.com/nqsF3NkQfS
— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) December 15, 2022
The Wizards lost this game despite enjoying a massive advantage in 3-point shooting. They made 19-of-39 (48.7%) from the perimeter, while the Nuggets were held to 4-for-16 (25.0%). Denver came into this game leading the NBA in 3-point percentage (39.4), yet they didn't get one to fall until there was 3:34 left in the first half.
Usually, a team making that many more threes than their opponent would nearly ensure victory. In fact, teams that were +15 or better in 3-pointers made before this game were 76-1 in NBA history. Now they are 76-2.