PREVIEW: Energized Washington Wizards look to extend win streak vs. Nuggets

Feb 2, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Wizards center Moritz Wagner (21) dunks the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first quarter at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook are the driving forces for Washington, but they received some help in the resurgent Wizards’ past two victories.

Beal leads the NBA in scoring at 33.1 points a game and is coming off a 37-point performance in Washington’s win over the Houston Rockets on Monday. Westbrook had a triple-double in the 131-119 victory, but Moritz Wagner continued to step up in a big way with injured Thomas Bryant out.

The 6-foot-11 center has had an impact in the past two games, both wins, but he’ll have a tough task when Washington hosts the Nuggets on Wednesday night. Nikola Jokic, fresh off scoring 43 points in Denver’s 112-99 loss at Boston on Tuesday night, poses a threat whenever he’s on the court.

Wagner’s attitude will be an asset when facing the Nuggets’ MVP candidate.

“He works,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Wagner after the Monday win. “Just kept coming to work with a great attitude (regardless of his playing-time status). Positive mental attitude gets you a long way. That’s why he’s becoming a solid piece for us.

“I had a guy, Nick Collison, he’s a lot like him. Just makes winning plays, and he’s just good to be around. His teammates love him, and he just always wants to do right by his teammates.”

Beal echoed those words.

“He’s been giving us nothing but life on both ends,” Beal said Monday. “We feed off of that. We need it. Moe loves what he does.”

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Wagner didn’t hang his head when Washington didn’t pick up his fourth-year option before the season. Instead he has tried to remain positive and do what he can to help the Wizards win.

“I know what I can do,” he said Monday after he scored 15 points. “I figured out that in this league you’re not going to get any gifts. … My mindset is that I’ll be here if you need me. And if not, I’ll be the same guy every day.”

Denver has been playing short-handed, but not because of COVID-19 issues. The Nuggets had five rotation players out against the Celtics and got 83 of their 99 points Tuesday night from just three players. In addition to Jokic’s third game of 40-plus points this season, Jamal Murray had 25 points and Facundo Campazzo added 15.

With Gary Harris (left adductor strain), PJ Dozier (right hamstring strain), Will Barton (personal reasons), Paul Millsap (left knee sprain) and Monte Morris (right shoulder strain) out, Denver was missing 50.1 points a game.

Campazzo, a 29-year-old rookie out of Argentina, has given the Nuggets a spark when he has played. Tuesday was the first start of his career, and he has scored 15 points in consecutive games.

“Facu Campazzo is going to play hard,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “He’s going to leave a piece of himself on the floor, and that’s why you love him because he’s a warrior.”

Malone will need Campazzo to continue to inject energy into the team if the injuries linger.

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–Field Level Media