The season is growing late for the Washington Wizards. They dropped their fourth straight game against the Denver Nuggets 118-104 in Capital One Arena on Wednesday night. The defending MVP Nikola Jokic dissected the Wizards’ defense for 31 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists. Washington had its worst three-point shooting night of the season as they shot just 15.4% (4/26) from deep. The team falls to 3-9 in March and lands them in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games back of the last play-in spot. Here’s some of what the Wizards said after the loss.
Coach Wes Unseld Jr.
On what went wrong in the third quarter: “They got out early [in the quarter], then the turnovers were more the back end of that third quarter. We had one turnover for no points in that first half and 12 Points off six turnovers in that quarter alone. So to finish with seven [turnovers], you feel pretty good about it. But they scored on each one of those turnovers.” (Question from Chase Hughes)
Why it matters: The Wizards went from a 4-point lead early in the third quarter to getting blown out. The Nuggets went on a 39-14 run for the rest of the quarter. All six of DC’s turnovers were Denver steals. The live ball turnovers helped the Nuggets catch fire from three with 7 makes in that quarter alone. The Wizards missed all 5 of their attempts in the quarter.
On what went right in the offense: “In general, we were efficient [on offense]. We shot 51% for the field. So did they. Obviously, the difference was the threes. 45 to 12 disadvantage from the three-point line. It’s tough to swallow, but you know, we scored 60 in the paint, so we did some good things in that regard. But you know, trying to keep pace in that areas has been difficult for us.” (Question from Christy Winters-Scott)
Why it matters: The Wizards had one of their better shooting nights from within the arc. According to Cleaning The Glass, Washington shot 54.3% from mid-range and 81.8% at the rim. Even with a subpar night shooting night from three, they likely stick around in this game. But when the Wizards shoot 30% or worse from three, they are just 2-10 this year. The team ranks 19th for three-point shooting percentage. With Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma hurt, DC’s best shooters Corey Kispert (1/7) and Monte Morris (0/3) faced tougher looks than normal.
On what Johnny Davis is doing well: “Well, the defense. I think he’s he’s done a pretty good job. One-on-one, his containment, getting through actions in pick-and-roll and catch-and-shoot situations. Areas where I thought he struggled probably early in the year just with the level of physicality needed to navigate some of that stuff.” (Question from Ava Wallace)
Why it matters: Johnny Davis had some good moments against the Nuggets. He put up 7 points on 3 of 9 shooting and grabbed four rebounds. Getting Davis some minutes as the season winds down may provide Washington some silver lining if they fail to make the play-in.
On Nikola Jokic: “He’s MVP for a reason. No matter what you do, how many defenders you bring at him. His passing is elite so it makes it kind of hard for you to double-team. He can also score the ball so he’s a force down there.” (Question from Ava Wallace)
On his offensive development: “Just taking it what the defense gives me. I hang my hat on defense and I know on offense that I could definitely score the ball. But right now, I just got to know it’s gonna get better with my development [and] understanding the time and score spacing and things like that to get better on the offensive end eventually. Right now, I’m still just developing and taking my time to learn.” (Question from Gabe Ibrahim)
Why it matters: Goodwin played a solid game on both ends. He went 5 of 8 from the field for 12 points in his 17 minutes of play. His development as a pick-and-roll ball handler and pull up shooter from the mid-range has been eye-opening this year. Goodwin’s future in DC continues to look bright and may be the highlight of the Wizards’ development efforts in the past couple of years.
On what happened in the second half: “I feel like we collapsed pretty bad because of the turnovers, including myself I threw up some tough passes that lead up to two threes. Starting the second half, they were hitting like three threes in a row and it kind of like we kind of collapsed. I don’t know what the reason for it was, but we got to change. We got to be more focused when we start the second half. It’s happened to us a lot this year. And we gotta figure it out, to be honest.”
On how Denver changed their pick-and-roll coverage: “I should have read it better. I know better. I know I could have done better. Shouldn’t be the same mistake four times in a row and that’s on me. I guess I haven’t seen [that kind of coverage]. I was kind of stressed out and my next step is like ‘alright, calm down. You made one mistake. You got to recognize the defense, recognize what they’re doing and find different solutions.’ But when I saw the film, I saw a lot of solutions that I could have done, but it was kind of too late already. But this is experience. I learned from this game, I learned from this situation and next time it’s gonna happen I’m gonna be way better.” (Question from Neil Dalal)
Follow-up question: “They forced me to my left hand. But when I saw the film, I saw it on the bench when I got substituted after going my four turnovers and I saw they collapsed the paint because they know I like to lob it to the big and drop off and all those stuff. I saw a lot of guys outside like in the perimeter were wide open. So I was like okay ‘now I understand what they did you know’ but I couldn’t really see it because I kind of rushed the pick and roll when they changed [their coverage] but I could have also finished at the rim. Jokic is not a great rim protector. I feel like if I was more patient and I was slowing down a little bit, it would have opened up for me.” (Question from Gabe Ibrahim)
Why it matters: Deni grew as a playmaker this year as his assist percentage and assist-to-usage ratio are at career-best levels. However, his assist-to-turnover ratio dropped a career-worst 1.75. These are growing pains for the Israeli wing. NBA defense pick up on tendacies very fast and Avdija needs to learn more reads to combat being successfully schemed against. I do love that he always acknowledges where he came up short and has gotten better at describing what happened immediately after the game. It shows that he’s processing the game quicker and is a good sign for his future.
Next up: The Wizards take on the San Antonio Spurs in Cap One on Friday at 7 pm. Washington beat San Antonio by 21 points in their last meeting in January. Kyle Kuzma and Bradley Beal are still day-to-day with an ankle sprain and knee soreness respectively. With 9 games left and 6 against teams with better records, the Wizards can’t afford to lose to worse opponents.