It wasn’t the prettiest game the Denver Nuggets have ever played, the but they ended up defeating the Washington Wizards 113-104 on Sunday evening.

Coming off of two games against the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics, there was a visceral change in Denver’s effort and focus level as a squad. It’s unavoidable after Denver earned their toughest, most impressive win of the season, but it allowed the Wizards to hang around until the end of the game.

Ultimately, the Nuggets prevailed with a gigantic assist from Nikola Jokic, who was locked in on both ends of the floor today. Jokic put up a season high 42 points, imposing his will on Wizards starting center Daniel Gafford, new backup center Marvin Bagley, and any other Wizards player loath to guard the big fella. Jokic shot 15-of-20 from the field and made everything look easy tonight, and whenever he missed, it was often due to being fouled. Jokic shot 12-of-14 on free throws and didn’t attempt a single three-pointer, staying aggressive in the middle of the floor and not letting the Wizards off the hook.

Of course, it wasn’t Jokic’s scoring that caused him to receive MVP chants in a road arena tonight. It was his incredible passing, including an absolutely gorgeous floating pass over his shoulder to Aaron Gordon that caught everyone by surprise.

Jokic finished the game with eight assists to go with his 42 points, 12 rebounds, one steal, and three blocks. He had zero turnovers and was in complete control throughout the evening, doing everything for the Nuggets. The Wizards basically played Jokic straight up 1-on-1, which turned out to be a poor decision.

Jamal Murray, on the other end of the spectrum, struggled mightily with his shot tonight, going 7-of-22 from the field. Murray couldn’t really buy a basket in the second half and struggled leading Denver’s bench unit in the fourth quarter. Some sloppy plays, errant shots, and decision making miscues allowed the Wizards back into this one, and while Murray had seven assists, most of them were to Jokic or Michael Porter Jr. in the starting group.

In the second quarter, the Nuggets staggered Porter along with Murray due to Peyton Watson bumping knees with someone. Watson sat out, and the Nuggets bench offense looked much better with Porter spacing the floor and taking the occasional shot. When Watson returned to the floor in the second half, the Nuggets went back to Murray with four bench guys, including DeAndre Jordan, who replaced Zeke Nnaji after five poor first half minutes.

The Nuggets struggled with Murray as the focal point in the fourth quarter, and there were too many possessions involving Christian Braun and others that involved passes back to Murray and difficult shots for the star guard. It’s not necessarily Murray’s fault, and the Nuggets bench often looks better when there are other scoring threats playing next to him. Still, Murray has to play better, adding to the legend that he rises to the challenge in games that matter and struggles when they don’t.

Michael Porter, who entered the game questionable due to illness, rose to the occasion throughout the game and scored 19 points on 14 shots. There were some impressive shots taken off the dribble in the midrange area, and the Nuggets benefitted from his spacing and scoring throughout the night. Porter also added six rebounds, two steals, and two blocks, making plays on the defensive end to jumpstart some fast breaks and earn easy baskets for the Nuggets on the other end.

 It was a good reminder of what he can do when in rhythm on both ends, and it was also nice to see Porter keep his games played streak alive. Porter has yet to miss a game for Denver, and his reliability has been underrated throughout the season.

This was a matter-of-fact win for the Nuggets. It was one where the result was never in doubt, and the Nuggets were lulled to sleep a bit by how bad the Wizards are. Tyus Jones made them pay a few times while Kyle Kuzma and Landry Shamet made some plays. Ultimately though, the talent disparity was clear from the jump, and the Nuggets used an excellent Jokic performance to carry the day.

The Nuggets will have a day off before heading to Indiana for a rematch with the Pacers on Tuesday evening, their first look at Tyrese Haliburton and Pascal Siakam playing together.

Final Rotations