It wasn’t easy, but the Washington Wizards defeated the Denver Nuggets, 130-128 on Wednesday evening.
Even though he logged only three minutes, Moritz Wagner’s role as hype-man saw him jumping up and down and supporting his teammates throughout one of the most exciting matches of the season. Nikola Jokic had his way in the paint, bullying Wagner for six early points. After failing to stop the Serb, who put up 33 points and nine assists, Wagner was hooked after only three minutes, paving the way for Alex Len to check in.
Jokic must not have noticed the substitution because he nailed a three to put the Nuggets up 14–5. Even after Denver’s big-man and his 15 points went to the bench with 2:22 left in the first, Denver finished with 41 points, even though they went 4–14 from three.
Despite being down 17, the Wizards marched back to reclaim the lead in the second quarter. With the bench scoring more than the starters, 38 to 32, Washington forced Denver into committing six turnovers after the visitors failed to lose the ball once in the first and limited Jokic to a meager two points.
Davis Bertans, who has recaptured his three-point mastery in recent games, scored a career-high 35 points on his best-ever shooting night (nine threes), while Raul Neto added 14 off the bench. Then there was Bradley Beal notching 25 points after accruing just two in the first.
A back-and-forth quarter saw Washington put up 30 to Denver’s 29. With a 100–93 lead heading into the final frame, the Wizards had seven different scorers in the third. Mathews and Neto each had five, Len had six and made life difficult for Jokic, Rui Hachimura added two and Beal and Westbrook had three and four, respectively. With contributions from nearly every member of the team, the Wizards’ bench combined for 71 points in the win.
The fourth was just as tight as the previous frame, and Washington used an 8–0 run to push the lead to nine to force a Denver timeout. But Jamal Murray, who was doing his best Batman impersonation — 35 points, 19 of which came in the fourth — tied the game with 2.1 seconds to go with a clutch three. After Beal picked up the ball off the final inbound play of the night, the league’s leading scorer took a hard foul and drained the subsequent free throws to ice the game.
The Wizards are still 9-17, but they now have a season-high three-game win streak. Let’s see how it carries over for their upcoming west coast road trip.