DENVER — A fourth-quarter technical foul from Nikola Jokic who brushed Wizards' coach Scott Brooks on the way back to his bench sealed Denver's fate after a highly-contested 48 minutes. The Wizards edged the Nuggets 109-104.
It took just over one minute into tonight's game for Jokic to break his six quarter scoring drought dating back to Denver's opening night loss in Utah last week, and he wasn't done there. Jokic finished the first quarter with 12 points highlighted by back-to-back threes late in the period.
In an ugly second quarter that saw Denver turn the ball over nine times, the Wizards took a 56-55 lead into the half. Second-year guard Malik Beasley, who hadn't seen any significant rotation minutes through two games, played five minutes and finished with a +6 +/-. The 20-year-old played well and got the minutes because Washington fielded a super small-ball lineup with their bench that Denver countered with Will Barton at small forward, Wilson Chandler at power forward and Beasley at shooting guard.
Tonight was a rare off-game for the normally consistent Gary Harris. Harris seemed out of sorts on offense and didn't have his usual flare. Going up against the Wizards' backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal can cause that. Harris' struggles were evident in the third quarter when the reliable two-guard shot 0-3 from the field and committed three turnovers in ten minutes. Denver did rebound from a Washington run to trail by one, 78-77 entering the fourth. Really, nobody shot well tonight. The Wizards and Nuggets combined to go 11-39 from distance through three quarters.
Mid-way through the fourth quarter, Emmanuel Mudiay turned in his best sequence of the night. The 21-year-old stiffed Wall on a hard drive to the hoop then knocked down a catch-and-shoot three from the wing in transition as Denver got to within three points of Washington with six minutes to play.
But a Mudiay live-ball turnover with just over five minutes remaining gave the Wizards an extra possession which eventually pushed their lead to seven. Jokic's three with just over a minute left got Denver to within two but then as the two teams were returning to their respective huddles after a stoppage, Jokic bumped Wizards' coach Scott Brooks and was assessed a technical foul.
Washington pushed their lead to three and maintained possession of the ball. That was it for Denver.