The Wizards capped off their final game against a Western Conference foe with a shocking 95-90 victory on Sunday night over the Nuggets, who came into the game tied for the best record in the Western Conference.
Denver started the game on a roll. Although they were just 1-of-10 from deep in the first quarter, they controlled the paint on both ends. Nikola Jokic scored first 10 points of the game for Denver as they quickly established a double-digit lead.
Washington’s bench responded in the second quarter. Jabari Parker turned in another dazzling performance off the bench, finishing with 20 points, 6 assists and 3 steals while Jordan McRae added 7 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. Still, the bench only stopped the bleeding. They could only cut what was a 15-point lead down to 9 by halftime, and that was only thanks to a buzzer-beating shot by rookie Troy Brown Jr.
The game changed in the second half. Things slowed down on both ends, which suited Washington just fine, but threw Denver out of their rhythm. Washington outscored Denver 22-10 in the frame. Brown led the way adding 7 points in the quarter to go along with the dozen he scored in the first half. He made a couple impressive plays around the rim, but did most of his work behind the arc where he made his first 5 threes of the night and finished with a career-high 24 points.
It was a close, testy battle throughout the fourth quarter. Things boiled over with under four minutes left when Jokic argued a no-call after a putback and got ejected.
Beal picked up a technical of his own a few moments later, but it wasn’t enough to stop the momentum Washington had on their side at that point. The Wizards closed the game on a 7-2 run after Jokic’s ejection to pick up their most unlikely win of the season.
What a great road trip for Troy Brown Jr.
The Wizards really, really need Troy Brown Jr. to work out now that their youth pipeline is so bare. Thankfully, he’s taken some big steps forward now that he’s getting regular playing time. He averaged 11.8 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting during this four-game road trip and added 4.5 rebounds per game to boot.
His performance on Sunday was another great step in the right direction. It’s still too early to say whether he can develop into a reliable shooter, but that he’s already gotten to where he can be streaky like he did against Denver is an encouraging sign. If the Wizards continue to develop him the same way they’ve developed Tomas Satoransky, they’ll need him to keep knocking down those catch-and-shoot opportunities to earn more consistent playing time. Once that happens, he should get more opportunities to do things with the ball in his hands.
Not an ideal outcome for the tanking crowd
With the win tonight, Washington goes from the seventh-best odds of getting the top pick to a tie for eighth with New Orleans. If the standings hold that way the rest of the season, it would lower Washington’s chance of getting the top pick by two percent and their chance of getting in the top four by eight percent.
This game may not matter anyway because of what’s left on Washington’s schedule. The Wizards still have games left against the Bulls and the Knicks, while the Pelicans face a more competitive slate with games against the Hornets, Suns, Kings, and Warriors to close out the season. The Wizards were probably destined to end up in ninth regardless of what happened in Denver, but you never know.
Next up: The Wizards (32-46) head back home to host the Chicago Bulls (21-56) on Wednesday night at 7 pm Eastern Time.