Now 72 games into the 2018-19 regular season, the Wizards will finally get their first look at one of the most improved teams in the NBA. On Thursday night, the Wizards welcome the Denver Nuggets to town for a 7 p.m. tip on NBC Sports Washington.
That means the Wizards will face off with star center Nikola Jokic for the first time this season. Jokic, 24, is likely to receive MVP votes with averages of 20.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. He is a certified superstar with the team results to back up his resume.
He and the Nuggets are in contention for the top record in the Western Conference. They trail the Warriors by just a half a game as they ride a four-game winning streak.
The Wizards, meanwhile, are nearing playoff elimination. After losing three of their last four, they stare at a 5 1/2 game gap between them and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. At this point, it may be a matter of when and not if they will make the postseason, as the Miami Heat have taken firm control over the No. 8 spot.
The Wizards are likely safe to plan their summer vacations, but they may be able to put up a respectable fight against Denver. The Wizards are particularly good at home with a 22-14 record in Washington compared to an 8-28 elsewhere.
They also, for whatever reason, happen to be very good in the second game of back-to-backs. After losing on Wednesday night in Chicago, they are 2-12 in the first games, but they boast a 9-4 record in the second ones.
Denver wouldn't be the first good team the Wizards have beaten on zero days rest. They have wins against the Heat, Nets, Sixers and Pacers in those scenarios.
The Nuggets, though, are better than all of those teams. In addition to Jokic, they have Jamal Murray (18.2 ppg, 37.5 3PT%), Gary Harris (13.5 ppg), Paul Millsap (13 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and a deep bench.
Denver is good on both ends of the floor. They are third in offensive rating (114), 10th in defensive rating (108.9) and they allow the sixth-fewest points (107/g).
At 47-22, the Nuggets are on pace for 56 wins. That would mark their second-best season since the 1970s.
The Nuggets are one of the fastest rising teams in the NBA. The Wizards, at least this season, are trending in the other direction. It may be the biggest challenge Washington has faced in months.
MORE WIZARDS NEWS: