In his return to his former home in Denver, Monte Morris certainly had a memorable night. He put up 20 points and 7 assists in Washington’s 128-141 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Denver put on lovely tribute videos for both Morris and fellow former Nugget Will Barton. But just before the video played, Morris also slammed his head into the floor and chipped his tooth in the first quarter.
Monte Morris unfortunately chipped a tooth falling on the floor in his return to Denver. pic.twitter.com/nqsF3NkQfS— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) December 15, 2022
Poor Morris had to watch the tribute with a towel over his bloody mouth. He bounced back to have his big night. Barton also showed out offensively against his old team with 22 points and 9 assists.
Unfortunately, the very short-handed Wizards could not overcome their injuries or Nikola Jokic’s huge game. Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Rui Hachimura, and Delon Wright sat out as the Wizards dropped their eighth-consecutive game. Washington has lost 11 of their last 12 outings. Things are bleak. Let’s try to look on the bright side first.
- Washington registered a season-high 40 assists in the loss. Barton and Morris led the charge with 9 and 7 assists, respectively. Every player who touched the floor for DC had at least one assist. Of course, all of these assists came because shots fell. The Wizards shot the lights out in this game. They hit 19 threes on 26 attempts. Four Wizards hit four three-pointers: Corey Kispert (4/6), Kyle Kuzma (4/8), Will Barton (4/8), and Monte Morris (4/7). The team registered a 63.9% eFG, which is shooting percentage that factors in the greater value of a three-point shot. According to Cleaning the Glass, this game was Washington’s second-best shooting performance of the season.
- Kyle Kuzma continues to
increase his trade valueshow that he can drive a successful offense. Yes, the Wizards lost. But, as has often been the story in the Beal era, the offense was not to blame. Kuzma had another solid outing as the team’s featured scorer with 24 points on 9 of 16 shooting. He’s developing consistency and efficiency in his game with his sixth consecutive 20-point game. That’s a welcome sight regardless of what the Wizards do at the trade deadline.
- Reunions! Morris and Barton weren’t the only players reuniting with an old team. Head Coach Wes Unseld Jr. spent the previous six years of his career in Denver. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith faced the Wizards for the first time since being traded for Morris and Barton. My favorite reunion had to be Jeff Green trying to chat up the Wizards broadcast team at the end of the game. Green might have spent only one year with the Wizards, but he’s a true DMVer and it’s great to see him in the league.
- Well, you certainly want your starting center available when playing Nikola Jokic. The reigning two-time MVP feasted on Washington’s backup centers and small lineups. He put up a monstrous line: 43 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals and a block. The Wizards probably didn’t have a chance at slowing Jokic down tonight.
But the fact that 37-year-old Taj Gibson started over Daniel Gafford is troubling. Maybe you point the finger at Unseld Jr. for a bad decision as Gibson only stayed on the floor for 18 minutes. But Gafford didn’t make a strong argument for himself. Jokic punished him in a bunch of ways on Wednesday and he only played 26 minutes in a game where Washington needed him. Eventually, Unseld Jr. resorted to a small lineup in hopes of winning the game on offense. Gafford simply needs to play better for this team to survive the nights where Porzingis sits.
- Speaking of Gafford and Jeff Green:
JEFF GREEN TURNING BACK THE CLOCK pic.twitter.com/Wg19T4uz9B— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 15, 2022
Green started his NBA career two years before Taj Gibson did. Tough night for Gaf.
The Wizards are in desperate need of a win as they head to LA to face the Clippers on Saturday in the second game of this six-game Western Conference road trip. Washington expects Delon Wright back at some point before the end of the road trip. Bradley Beal is allegedly close to returning after a hamstring injury. But soft-muscle injuries can be tricky to deal with. There’s no clear timetable for Porzingis’s return right now. Hopefully, the Wizards are whole again soon and can continue their crusade into the playoff race.