If anyone could boil Wednesday’s loss down to a single area, it jumped right off the page.
The Wizards lost 127-109 to the Nuggets at Capital One Arena, their fifth-straight loss. The game was won (and in the Wizards’ case, lost) behind the 3-point arc as they struggled to defend the Nuggets’ potent shooting attack.
Nikola Jokic played like an MVP, Denver’s bench made nine 3-pointers and Washington’s defense had trouble stopping it all in an 18-point loss at home.
“We really struggled on that end,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I think it’s one thing to say Jokic and a guy of his caliber beats you, he has an impact for sure. But we can’t let their bench get loose like they did. Fifty-plus points off their bench, now everybody’s part of it. You can have your hands full with those types of guys, your MVP-caliber, your starters, but (when) everyone has an opportunity, it’s a bit much.”
The Nuggets shot 40.5% (15-of-37) from 3-point territory as that propelled them throughout the night to use the entire floor and get the looks they wanted. By halftime, the Nuggets were 8-of-16 from deep before they slowed down and the game moved further and further away from the Wizards.
The Wizards didn’t help themselves on the offensive end of the floor and shot just 21.7% (5-of-23) from beyond the arc. At the 3-point line in total, they were outscored 45-15.
Jokic finished 2-of-2 from 3-point range, but his playmaking ability was dangerous for each of the 26 minutes he was on the floor. He totaled a game-high eight assists as he made plays throughout the night for various teammates to get good looks beyond the arc.
“What is he, No. 1, No. 3, I don’t know in MVP voting,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “One of the best players in the world. We were doubling him in the post, but he’s so good at passing the ball out and then re-posting and doing all the little things really good. Some 50-50 calls always go his way, which is normal. It’s always so hard to stop him. A big body and one of the smartest players on this planet.”
The Wizards’ 3-point defense has struggled of late, as they’ve allowed their opponents to shoot at least 40% or better from deep in four of their last five games, all of which have been losses.
Granted, one of those games was against Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the Warriors. It’s a trend the Wizards would like to slow down.
“Steph, Klay, those guys are unique,” Unseld said. “You look at the shots, 18 3’s the other night at Golden State and I think six or seven were from guys we said we’d live with. That doesn’t mean you don’t contest them, but the gravity of those other two players that they command, it’s going to lead to something open. Similar to tonight.”
Against stars like Jokic, Curry and Thompson, the Wizards have found themselves in tough situations because while a double team may be called against one of those players, that leaves something open. And the most recent stretch of opponents is certainly good enough to find the crack in the defense.
“I can say transition (defense) is part of it, but I mean we’re great in running guys off the line,” Deni Avdija said. “Coach is doing a great job of giving us the scouting report and the guys that are great 3-point shooters, we’re good at running them off… I think we’ll do our work and we’ll improve it.”