Highlights: Nuggets 75, Wizards 74
This wasn't pretty, nor did it have to be. The Wizards were without Nene, Martell Webster, Al Harrington and Bradley Beal and had the defensive, low-scoring game they needed Monday at Verizon Center.
And they still lost.
Kenneth Faried had a chance to give the Nuggets three-point lead with 4.6 seconds left and missed two free throws, but on the final play John Wall lost the ball for a turnover as the clock expired.
Wall led all scorers with 20 points on 8-for-20 shooting and eight assists but had a miserable fourth quarter. The Wizards (9-11) also had key contributions from surprise starter in rookie Glen Rice and power forward Trevor Booker. Both started. Rice, who only had 11 points in eight appearances, had seven. Booker was a force defensively, contesting shots and producing hustle plays.
Rice stole an inbounds pass from Andre Miller with 18 seconds left but Wall missed the transition layup and Garrett Temple's putback was blocked by Wilson Chandler.
The Wizards led throughout the second half but consecutive three-pointers from Jordan Hamilton cut the deficit for Denver to 68-66. Trevor Ariza gave the Wizards more a cushion with a spinning layup at the four-minute mark, but the Nuggets (13-8) responded with consecutive layups from Chandler and Nate Robinson to reclaim the lead 73-72.
The lead switched hands in the final minutes, but Faried blocked Wall at the basket on a drive with less than one minute left and slammed a dunk in transition to put Denver back ahead for good at 75-74.
Still, the Nuggets gave the Wizards chances to win. On a drive to the basket with 23 seconds left, Ariza turned over the ball with an errant pass to Marcin Gortat. Seventeen seconds later, Ariza had an open corner three-point shot rim out. Faried was fouled on the rebound and went to the foul line to set up the final sequence.
Gortat finished with 16 points on 8-for-17 shooting and eight rebounds. He only scored four points after the first quarter.
Chandler was the only starter for Denver in double figures with 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including 3 of 6 on threes. Andre Miller, starting in place of Ty Lawson (left hamstring strain) missed all five field-goal attempts. He contributed just three made free throws, Randy Foye had six points on 2-for-7 shooting, J.J. Hickson was 4-for-9 for nine points and Faried had six points on 3-for-8.
Somehow, the Wizards still lost. Robinson had 16 points off Denver's bench on 6-for-15 shooting and four steals.
Turning point: Leading 45-40 at the half, the Wizards extended the lead to 58-46 in the third quarter until the consecutive three-point baskets by Hamilton and one by Randy Foye changed the complexion of the outcome.
Best in show: Booker. 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots. He played excellent position defense and contested shot attempts as well in 33 minutes of action.
What was that: What's going on with Eric Maynor is puzzling. With the score tie at 25 in the second quarter, Maynor took 14 seconds off the shot clock before he made the first pass to Otto Porter, who gave it back when he was double-teamed. Maynor dribbled out the rest of the possession and heaved a three-point shot that went wide left of the backboard. Maynor previous was stripped for a turnover and took his first desperation three-pointer with the shot clock winding down. He didn't touch the court again, ending 0-for-3 in five minutes.
Second time around: Otto Porter played for the second time but didn't make a dent or take a shot in seven minutes. He called for the ball on several occasions but didn't get the ball back. Coach Randy Wittman said they wouldn't push him too hard coming off his right hip flexor strain and held firm. Porter played 14 minutes and didn't score in his debut Friday.
Can't shoot: The bench only contributed five points, with Chris Singleton having three and Jan Vesely two. As a group, the reserves shot 2-for-13
From the locker room: "Our guys fought hard tonight. I'm proud of them for their effort. It's just one of those nights from an offensive standpoint we just couldn't really establish anything that we did. End of the third, beginning of the fourth, I think we got up 12. And I'm trying to get some rest for some guys and next thing you know, you look up and it's (down to) four, two. We've got to continue to do a better job of sustaining leads that we have." -- Wittman
"I was really concerned the entire game, especially the way they started out the game. Just killing it on the offensive boards. We did a pretty good job on the initial stop, but they got second and third chances that allowed them to get buckets and just kind of wore us down." -- Nuggets coach Brian Shaw
"We got good shots. We just didn't make them and they made their shots. They made their plays down the stretch and we didn't." -- Wall
"I feel like we gave one away. Even though that's a good team, we shouldn't have been in the position that we were in." -- Ariza
"We missed a lot of open shots. They missed a lot of open shots. It was just terrible. Just terrible basketball, but it's like that sometimes but we came out with a win so we'll take it." -- Faried
"Team defense. We got to make it tough on him. He's a great scorer. We had to try to make everybody else on their team score the ball and it worked." -- Robinson on defending and containing Wall down the stretch
Around the bend: The Wizards likely won't practice Tuesday and then hit the floor Wednesday and Thursday before playing at the Atlanta Hawks on Friday (CSN+, 7:30 p.m. ET) and return after that game to face the Los Angeles Clippers at Verizon Center (CSN, 7).