PREVIEW: Denver Nuggets looking for shot at payback vs. Washington Wizards

Feb 23, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoot the ball over Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter (11) in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

When the Denver Nuggets played the Wizards in Washington last week, it looked like a bad loss to a team near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

After what the Wizards accomplished over an eight-day period, Denver’s loss to the Wizards doesn’t look so bad. Washington’s five-game winning streak included road victories at Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers before the Clippers ended the fun on Tuesday night.

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The Nuggets have a chance for payback when the two teams meet in Denver on Thursday, which will conclude the Wizards’ four-game road trip through the Western Conference.

This will be the third game in four nights for Washington, which couldn’t pull off a fourth comeback win in a week. The Wizards ran out of fuel in the fourth quarter against the Clippers, and they plan on recharging before facing Denver.

“Just rest, rest our bodies, rest our minds,” coach Scott Brooks said after Tuesday’s loss. “We had a good run. We started this trip 2-1, could be a great trip if we could somehow muster up a good start in Denver and play a good finish, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Bradley Beal continues to be the focal point of Washington’s offense. His 32.7 points a game leads the NBA and he averaged 33.4 points in the winning streak. Now that they’ve lost a game, the Wizards need to quickly move on or risk losing multiple games in a row.

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“That’s the crazy thing about this league, like, if you emotionally just get stuck, if you get caught up in the past, you’re done,” Moritz Wagner said Tuesday night. “So honestly, if you ask me, clear our heads tomorrow, learn from today and move on. Get better by it. Can’t make the same mistakes over and over again, but at the same time, stay positive and know that we’re a really, really good basketball team.”

Denver is coming off a 111-106 win against Portland on Tuesday night after losing three of its previous four. The Nuggets are still short-handed, with two starters — Gary Harris (adductor) and Paul Millsap (left knee) sidelined — as well as JaMychal Green and P.J. Dozier.

Due to the injuries, Denver has leaned on its two stars — Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, both of whom carried the Nuggets to the win over the Trail Blazers.

Denver also got a solid performance from Michael Porter Jr., who started at the power forward position with Millsap and Green out. He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds and played some solid defense.

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“Michael has been an elite scorer his whole life, prolific scorer his whole life, and on this team, yes, we need him to score, we need him to make shots, but we also need him to defend and to rebound,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Tuesday night. “Tonight, I thought it was an all-around game for him and I think Michael’s development is continuing.”

Denver is expected to be without the same four players against the Wizards, but Murray, who was battling through a sore shoulder Tuesday night, said he is fine.

–Field Level Media