With Okafor getting fourth-quarter minutes and having his way with the Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried, Wall refusing to get down after a series of late mistakes, Trevor Ariza playing without a conscience and rookie Bradley Beal once again auditioning to become a crash-test dummy, the Wizards (16-37) swept their second season series against a Western Conference opponent.
“This was a quality win for us, in so many ways,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “To beat these guys twice is an accomplishment for our guys.”
With his team coming off losses to Detroit and Toronto — teams, like Washington, that are currently not in the playoff picture – Wittman wanted the Wizards to get back to being the free-flowing, ball-sharing team they were before the all-star break. They responded with a performance in which seven players scored in double figures and the team had 27 assists.
The Wizards didn’t necessarily have to go back to basics, or swing the ball with zip. Perhaps they merely needed to trade Jordan Crawford to the Boston Celtics (as they did just before the deadline). Or maybe all the Wizards really needed was another quality opponent. They have knocked off some of the league’s best teams at home, including Miami, Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Clippers and New York — and they also beat the Nuggets (34-22) when the teams met in Denver last month.
“That’s how it goes, I guess,” Okafor said after recording his 13th double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 rebounds. “Didn’t have our best showing against Toronto, so we wanted to make sure we come out here and have a good show, a good effort. Ball was moving, zipping around. Everybody was unselfish. Looking for the best shot available and moved the ball around until we got it.”
The Wizards had their second-highest scoring game of the season and allowed an opponent to reach triple digits for the first time since Jan. 25, a string of 11 consecutive games. This marked just the third time a Wizards opponent has scored 100 points or more since Wall made his debut on Jan. 12 after recovering from a knee injury.
Despite the game being an end-to-end shootout, the Wizards actually took control of the game in the third quarter with their defense. They held the Nuggets without a field goal and forced five turnovers through the first 5 minutes 21 seconds of the third quarter, scoring 13 unanswered points to take a 77-64 lead.
The lead was 18 early in the fourth, before Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (27 points, 12 assists), reserve swingman Wilson Chandler (22 points) and veteran Andre Miller (19 points) led a furious rally to get the Nuggets back within 110-107 with 2:27 remaining.