DENVER (AP) Randy Wittman was livid with his team’s rather lackadaisical play, especially this close to the postseason and against an injury depleted Denver Nuggets squad.
”We’ve given games away. You can’t do that,” the Washington Wizards coach said.
The Nuggets took advantage of Washington’s season-high 24 turnovers – including eight by point guard John Wall – as they held on for a 105-102 win on Sunday night.
The Wizards return home 1-3 after a four-game road swing – not exactly what they were hoping for in the thick of a playoff chase.
”We thought we were going to show up and just win the game versus showing up and taking the game,” Drew Gooden said.
But Denver stuck around even with all the team’s ailments and in a season that’s gone sideways. Kenneth Faried had 20 points and Aaron Brooks hit four straight free throws in the final 12 seconds, helping the Nuggets hang on for their fifth straight home win.
Randy Foye added 17 for a Nuggets team that was missing J.J. Hickson, who suffered torn ligament in his right knee on Friday. Wilson Chandler also didn’t play (strained left hip) and Jan Vesely didn’t return after bruising his rib cage late in the third quarter.
”You step up,” Evan Fournier said. ”When you have an opportunity, you have to take it.”
Plus, there’s always this incentive to play all out – a new deal.
”I’m getting an extension next year so I’m playing for myself and my family, playing for my teammates because I want (us) to get at least over .500, that’s the least we can do,” Faried said. ”We know we’re not going to make the playoffs, but we’re going to keep fighting.”
Bradley Beal wound up with 21 points for Washington and Trevor Ariza scored 18, but only three after the first quarter.
About that first quarter: That’s when things really began to unravel for the Wizards. They were up 14 late in the period before taking the foot off the gas pedal.
That allowed the Nuggets to creep back in.
”Feel like we could’ve won this game (if) we opened it up,” said Wall, whose eight turnovers were a season high. ”But we turned the ball over too much.”
Precisely Wittman’s feelings, too.
”We aren’t going to beat anybody with 24 turnovers. Doesn’t matter who you’re playing or who’s playing or who’s not playing or where you’re playing,” Wittman said. ”We’ve got to somehow handle the success that we have in a game better than we do.”
Fournier’s floating jumper with 7:36 remaining ignited a 7-0 run that gave the Nuggets a 91-84 lead, which they wouldn’t relinquish, thanks to Brooks hitting four free throws to close it out with the game still tight.
Hickson was the latest player to be lost by the Nuggets. They were already without Danilo Gallinari (left ACL), JaVale McGee (broken tibia) and Nate Robinson (left ACL), who all have undergone season-ending operations.
Vesely was having one of his best games of the season, before leaving the late in the third quarter with a bruised rib cage. He had 10 points in 15 minutes.
Andre Miller made his return to the Pepsi Center for the first time since New Year’s Day, when he got into an on-court confrontation with former coach Brian Shaw.
Miller, now a backup guard with the Wizards, was originally suspended by the Nuggets, but it was later rescinded. Miller stayed away from the squad until he was dealt to the Wizards on Feb. 20.
Both Miller and Shaw said before the game they’ve moved on from the incident. To show it, they shook hands when Miller entered the game to start the second quarter.
”(Shaw) said a couple of things, good luck, good luck, that’s it,” Miller said.
Shaw has no hard feelings, either.
”I’m sure both of us didn’t take this personal,” Shaw said. ”It’s unfortunate that it had to happen and neither one of us wanted that to happen but I don’t have a problem with him. I have the most respect for Andre Miller.”
NOTES: Asked about being fined $15,000 by the NBA for attempting to throw the Lakers’ Nick Young to the floor on Friday, Gooden simply said, ”no comment.” … Denver’s bench scored 52 points. Darrell Arthur led the way with 15. … Shaw said of the mounting injuries his team has suffered this season: ”I hope it’s karma in reverse and that all of the bad stuff is out of the way this year and everything will be uphill from here on out.”