Wizards rally to down Nuggets in Denver

Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) grabs for a loose ball against Washington Wizards forward Jabari Parker (12) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center.
Mar 31, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) grabs for a loose ball against Washington Wizards forward Jabari Parker (12) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets suffered a shocking loss on Sunday as the Washington Wizards walked out of Pepsi Center with a 95-90 victory.

With the loss, Denver’s record moves to 51-25, which moves them a game behind Golden State for first place in the Western Conference.

The game did not start out bad as the Nuggets dominated from the opening tip, specifically their star big man, Nikola Jokic. Denver’s All-Star scored the Nuggets first 10 points and added four more for good measure before the quarter was all said and done. Jokic might have scored more in the opening 12 minutes, but he had to be subbed out early because of a bloody nose.

That was not the only injury concern Denver endured in the first quarter as Jamal Murray had to exit the game with what appeared to be a sprained left ankle. Murray had to go back to the locker room before returning to the bench to end the period. Even with the Nuggets suffering a couple of injuries, they were still able to walk out of the first quarter with a 34-23 lead.

Luckily for Denver, their injury woes improved in the second quarter as Murray opened the period back in the game, while Jokic was sitting on the bench. Both players were done with their short stints in the locker room as the Nuggets continued to roll with their play on the court. Halfway through the quarter, Denver held a 46-36 as they continued to dominate the game on both ends of the floor.

Denver’s foot came off the gas too close the quarter though as Washington was able to make it a 62-53 game at halftime. Washington’s run was sparked by rookie Troy Brown Jr., who made some big shots en route to finishing with nine first half points. For Denver, they were led offensively by Jokic, who finished with 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field through two quarters to go along with his eight rebounds and three assists.

It was the same old story to begin the third quarter as Denver let their foot off the gas, but still maintained a sizable lead at the midway point of the period. Even though Bradley Beal was doing everything in his power to keep Washington in the game, Jokic and Denver were not allowing it to happen as the Nuggets led 71-62 with 5:51 left in the period.

Just like they had done all night though, the Wizards would not go away as they ended up taking a 75-72 lead through three quarters of play. Washington ended up outscoring the Nuggets 22-10 in the third quarter as Denver had to put together a big fourth to avoid disaster. The Nuggets once 15-point lead had suddenly evaporated as Washington was firing on all cylinders, while Denver was heading in the opposite direction.

Washington opened the fourth quarter with four quick points before the Nuggets went on a mini-run to regain a 3-point lead with 9:45 left in the game. Denver’s run was in large part to Monte Morris and Malik Beasley as both hit three-pointers to help get the Nuggets back on track offensively.

After that Beasley three the Wizards went on a 7-0 run — highlighted by another Brown Jr. three-pointer — that gave them an 86-82 lead with 6:08 left in the game. The Nuggets were on an almost 5-minute scoring drought, until a Paul Millsap free-throw with 4:58 remaining sparked a mini-run to tie the game back up.

This is when the game really started to get tense, which escalated a few possessions later as Jokic was ejected from the game. Jokic was issued a double-technical after arguing a foul call, but Denver still had a chance to win as the game was tied with just over three minutes remaining. The Wizards were not going quietly though as they held a 4-point lead with 2:18 left in the game.

The Wizards maintained that same lead for the next minute as the Nuggets missed some key free-throws and shots that could have cut into the lead. Washington missed a three-point attempt with just under 30 seconds remaining, which gave Denver a chance as they had the ball — down 4-points — with 29 seconds left. The Nuggets would miss a couple of shots, while Washington made a pair of free-throws to ultimately capture a 95-90 win.

Stat leaders for Denver were Jokic, who had a big game before his ejection with 23 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field, while also hauling in 14 rebounds and dishing out four assists. Murray also finished with a solid stat line as he poured in 12 points behind two three-pointers before exiting the game with a left ankle injury. Other Nuggets who finished in double-figures were Will Barton (10) and Millsap (13), who also hauled in 16 boards.

The Nuggets will now have a day off tomorrow before they play arguably their biggest game of the season in Golden State on Tuesday. That game will tip-off at 8:30 p.m. MST and will be televised nationally on TNT.