The Washington Wizards lost to the Nuggets 113-107 in Denver on Monday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
Another big loss
The Wizards aren't just losing a lot of games these days, they're losing bad. And some nights it's really bad, like on Monday when they went down by 33 points to an injury-depleted Nuggets team. Though they would later cut the lead to six before Denver held on, it was downright ugly for most of the evening.
The Nuggets were missing Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton, Austin Rivers and others, yet they found little trouble scoring against the Wizards until Nikola Jokic was ejected in the fourth quarter. The loss spoiled Wes Unseld Jr.'s return to Denver for the first time since being hired to coach Washington from Michael Malone's staff.
The Wizards are reeling right now. They have now lost 10 of their last 15 games and have trailed by double-figures in six straight. It's one thing to get demolished by the Jazz, as the Wizards were on Saturday night, but the Nuggets (14-13) are around where the Wizards (15-13) are record-wise.
The Wizards' 10-3 start was very impressive, but this recent slide has produced a larger sample size. They have to find a way to get back on track.
The Wizards counted rebounding as a relatively surprising strength at the beginning of the season, but lately they have slipped in that area. They now rank below average in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. On Monday, they were outrebounded for the fifth time in six games.
The Nuggets won the category 54-to-49, but one guy stood out above the rest. That was Jokic, who had 19 boards for the game and outrebounded the Wizards all by himself in the first quarter, 9-to-8. He also had 28 points, nine assists and three steals, all in only 30 minutes. He showed the Wizards why he is on the short-list among early-season MVP candidates. The fact they came back after he was ejected, in a way, further proved his value.
Dinwiddie is really struggling
The Wizards have a lot of problems right now, so many that they will likely have to fix a few things before they can get back on track. A good place to start may be figuring out what has happened to starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, as he has been a completely different player since the first few weeks of the season.
When the Wizards started 10-3, Dinwiddie played in 12 of those 13 games and averaged 17.0 points, 6.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 42.9% from the field and 37.7% from three. In the last 15 games, of which he's played 12, he's averaged just 9.3 points, 4.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds, shooting 33.3% overall and 27.8% from long range.
Against the Nuggets on Monday, he was held to nine points with four turnovers and shot 3-for-8. His offensive impact has completely dropped off and it has paralleled the team's success, or lately lack thereof. It needs to be kept in mind he's only 11 months removed from a major surgery, but he was really good not that long ago. Something changed and the Wizards need to find out what is different.
At least Bertans was good?
A small silver lining, if you are looking for one, was the play of Davis Bertans who may be, just maybe, heating up. He started Saturday's game 2-for-2 for three and then did the same in this one. They weren't easy ones, either. Bertans hit one from the corner with a man all over him, then another one leaning away from the basket on the wing.
Bertans also had a floater and a dunk off cuts to the rim in the first half, as he got to halftime with 10 points. He finished with 21 points and five rebounds (8-13 FG, 5-9 3PT), but that's a step in the right direction for him. Given the Wizards' offense has struggled so badly this season, and especially of late, they could use his shooting.
Rui didn't travel
The Wizards played their second straight game without starting power forward Kyle Kuzma, who remains in health and safety protocol after testing positive for the coronavirus. In addition to Kuzma, an undisclosed Wizards staffer also tested positive. And as a result of that outbreak, there was quite a domino effect which led to the Wizards changing their plans to have Rui Hachimura make the trip.
Because of the positive tests, the Wizards are not able to have shootarounds per league rules, according to head coach Wes Unseld Jr. That cut out a lot of the time they planned to spend having Hachimura continue his training regimen on the court, as he is working his way toward returning from his long absence due to personal reasons. So, they decided to leave him in Washington to do more work with the Capital City Go-Go. The Go-Go does not have a game until Dec. 28, leaving ample practices for Hachimura to participate in.