The Denver Nuggets returned from the All-Star break in impressive fashion against an outmatched Washington Wizards squad, winning 130-110 in a game that wasn’t that close.

Nikola Jokic nearly achieved a first half triple-double and was only one assist away from accomplishing what would have been an incredible feat. Jokic had 10 points, 14 rebounds, and nine assists at the half. He finished the game with 21 points, 19 rebounds, and 15 assists, clearly having a good time out there and whipping out some incredible passes. Jokic also shot 10-of-10 from the field.

“What’s unique about him is he can impose his will in so many ways,” Michael Malone shared of Nikola Jokic postgame. “As we always talk about, just the definition of greatness.”

The Nuggets were up big at times in the second and third quarter, and the game looked like it was trending toward a blowout. The Wizards kept it close though with a 34-point third quarter, and it looked like the Nuggets were going to allow them back into the game. Denver got things back under control soon after though, and Jokic was at the center of it all, directing traffic in the fourth quarter and making plays in the middle of the paint.

Jokic is now the third player in NBA history to achieve a triple-double against every team he’s faced, joining LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. Jokic now has 121 triple-doubles in his career, and this was the fourth of his career that also included perfect shooting from the field, more than anyone in NBA history.

“Like I always say, it’s just something that after I finish my career, it’s a legacy milestone,” Jokic shared on achieving his first triple-double vs the Wizards. “I’m going to look back and say, ‘that’s a really cool thing to do.'”

“He just has a tremendous IQ, and he sees a lot of things before they happen,” Malone continued on Jokic. “He is one of the best passers to ever play this game, and that’s saying a lot.”

Jokic wasn’t the only one to the party against the Wizards though. There were plenty of positives from the night from across the rotation. Jamal Murray had 18 points, eight assists, three steals, and two blocks, leading the second unit to some solid possessions throughout the evening and playing great defense for much of the game. Michael Porter Jr. had 22 points and 11 rebounds, making simple reads and attacking the offensive glass consistently. Aaron Gordon had 17 points of his own and was the beneficiary of several great Jokic passes, especially some fullcourt dimes.

Off the bench, the Nuggets had several impressive contributions from the young trio of Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, and Zeke Nnaji.

Christian Braun had 12 points and 10 rebounds, hustling for extra possessions and grabbing four offensive rebounds tonight. He finished an And-1 in transition and offered up a primal scream in the first half, doing a great job of attacking consistently.

“I got few early,” Braun said of the rebounding, There were just a lot of opportunities tonight. Just being in the right spots, trying to make extra opportunities like always. A lot of them just came right to me.”

Peyton Watson had 11 points, five rebounds, and four blocks tonight. It was his rejections that really fired up the crowd with the young forward skying for defensive stops throughout the second half. Watson clearly fed off that energy and looked extremely athletic out there, making impressive plays defensively.

“I think they both played good,” Jokic said of Braun and Watson. “Christian for his double-double. He was helping us on the glass of course. And P-Wat was really good on defense. He’s a really good defender. He can guard multiple positions and he never quits. He has great length and a great mindset. They were really good today.”

 And then there was Zeke Nnaji, who Malone lauded pregame for the way he played heading into the All-Star break. Malone gave him a shot as the backup center tonight, and Nnaji responded with eight points on 4/5 FG, three rebounds, and four blocks of his own. Nnaji impacted the game defensively tonight, switching onto the perimeter, protecting the rim, and making the hustle plays the team needed.

“What he did tonight is what you need from Zeke Nnaji,” Malone emphasized postgame. “Tremendous effort. He attacked the basket, he rebounded, he was a rim protector. ”

The Nuggets will go forward with this nine-man rotation, assuming Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is fully healthy and ready to go. KCP exited early with a finger sprain, perhaps the same finger he injured prior to the All-Star break. The Nuggets need to get healthy more than anything, but it would be nice to see their playoff rotation find more opportunities to play together, mix and match different units, and see what the team looks like. Tonight, the Murray, Braun, Porter, Watson, Nnaji lineup played some minutes and looked pretty good, and it will be interesting to see if the Nuggets go back to that.

Overall though, a nice start to the post All-Star break schedule. The Nuggets will look to build momentum over these first few games, the next of which is Friday night at the Portland Trail Blazers on a back-to-back.

Final Rotations