The Denver Nuggets were pleading, begging the Washington Wizards to win this game, but in the end the Wizards just couldn't get out of their own way en route to a poorly-played 75-74 loss.
The Wizards built a 12-point lead midway through the third quarter thanks largely to some horrible offense from Denver, but in the last four minutes Washington went cold from the field and Nate Robinson made a couple shots as the Nuggets were able to close the deficit to two points heading into the fourth.
Washington was able to push the lead back up to seven in the final period, but then the Wizards, as they often do, let the Nuggets chip away until they eventually took the lead themselves. With the Wizards leading by one with less than a minute play, Wall appeared to have a layup to put Washington up three, but Kenneth Faried got the fingertip block and dunk on the other end to instead put the Nuggets up one. The Wizards followed with a turnover, as Trevor Ariza expected Marcin Gortat to roll to the basket rather than pop on an improvised pick-and-roll. Gortat popped instead, and Ariza's pass sailed out of bounds.
But the Nuggets gave the Wizards a few more chances. After a foul, Glen Rice Jr., who got the start for Martell Webster, stole the inbounds pass and found Wall darting to the basket, but Wall missed a twisting layup. The Nuggets blocked a follow-up shot out of bounds, and after taking the inbounds, Wall drove baseline and found Ariza in the corner, but he missed the deep ball. Really, only down one, Wall would have better off looking for a better shot.
But no worries! The Wizards fouled Faried, who promptly missed both free throws, and Washington had one more chance with 4.3 seconds to play. Except, the ball slipped out of Wall's hands as he rose up for the final shot, and Wizards fell, 75-74.
The Wizards started off the game relatively well considering they were starting Rice and Trevor Booker, who started for Nene and played well. They did a great job of making the Nuggets work for their shots in the first half, and Gortat led the way offensively, going 6-for-8 with 12 points in the first quarter. He didn't score the rest of the half, but Wall picked up the scoring load in the second quarter.
Washington stuck around in this game with their defense and rebounding. The Wizards only shot 2-for-12 from three in the first half, with Wall, of all people, nailing consecutive threes midway through the second quarter. But they outrebounded the Nuggets by eight in the first half.
Here's some game notes:
- I'm surprised Rice got the start. Not that I think it's a bad move; I'd have started him over Garrett Temple, too. I'm just surprised Randy Wittman went with Rice after playing him sparingly all season.
- Gortat and Booker started the game on different types of fire: Gortat from the field, Booker on the glass. Gortat provided the early offense while the rest of his teammates started out cold from the field, and Booker did a good job of dueling Kenneth Faried to a push on the boards.
- Was really impressed with Rice's defense early. Just solid fundamentals, stayed low and in front of his man. Nothing special, but nice to see from a rookie in his first start.
- Once again, Chris Singleton driving/cutting > Chris Singleton shooting.
- The Wizards were able to tread water early in the second quarter without Wall, Gortat or Ariza in the game thanks to their defense. The offense was putrid. Within three minutes, the backups had committed a 24-second violation and needed desperation jacks to avoid two more. Things were so bad Steve Buckhantz even lamented the "horrible offense" on display. But the reserves were feisty on defense, jumping passing lanes and rotating urgently enough to keep Denver from establishing anything on offense.
- Otto Porter is really freaking long. He should be able to really bother people on defense.
- He hasn't had a great night shooting the ball, but Rice has played well, and definitely earned more playing time moving forward.
- Good lord. I'm pretty sure they don't keep track of "Highlight Blocks," but if they did, would any guard have close to as many as Wall?
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