Jamal Murray and Nikola Jovic each scored 25 points to help the Denver Nuggets defeat the Washington Wizards 108-100 on Friday at Capital One Arena in northwest D.C.
The Wizards (40-32) lost a second straight game and currently rest in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. If the playoffs began today, Washington would face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“We got to play with more urgency,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. “We can’t go out there like it’s just another game. It’s valuable game for us. There’s playoff implications on every game.”
Defense has been the message Brooks preached to the team for several weeks, but the offense struggled in the first quarter with only 16 points.
One of the Wizards’ usual strengths, 3-point defense, was a hindrance early, as Denver shot 9-for-20 from deep in the first half. Murray, who scored 20 first-half points, was particularly hot, hitting four treys before the break.
Baltimore native Will Barton scored just six points in the first half, but torched the Wizards for 17 second-half points, 14 coming in the fourth quarter.
“I was feeling good,” Barton said of his shooting 5 of 7 from 3-point range. “I have a lot of family and a lot of friends out there to support me. It always feels good to play in front of them and get a win.”
With the victory, Denver (40-33) now sits just a game out of the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
The Nuggets blocked 10 shots and turned the ball over only 10 times. Conversely, the Nuggets scored 19 points off 17 Washington turnovers.
“We definitely have to come out with a lot more energy and urgency, especially on the defensive end,” Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. said. “This is coming down to playoff time. … For us to be out there on the top, we have to come with more intensity.”
Chenier Jersey Retired
Washington Bullets great Phil Chenier had his number 45 hung in the rafters at the half, becoming just the fifth player in franchise history to have his jersey retired.
Chenier, 67, joins Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes as the third member of the 1978 championship team to receive the honor, though Chenier missed the playoffs that season with a back injury.
His 33 years as a broadcaster kept him close to the game and a fixture in the Washington region. He thanked former teammates, coaches and the late franchise owner Abe Pollin and his wife, Irene.
A more poignant moment came when he thanked his family.
“To share this moment with my grandkids means a lot to me,” he said. “I want them to have high standards set. I want to see them achieve and do well in whatever they choose to do.”
Chenier received plenty of video messages from retired players, coaches and broadcasters.
Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar congratulated Chenier in a video message:
“The only question I have is, ‘What took them so long?’ I guess the old adage ‘better late than never’ really applies here.”