Wizards Nuggets Basketball

Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon hangs from the rim after dunking against the Washington Wizards on Monday in Denver.

DENVER — The final highlight play in a night full of them helped the Denver Nuggets hold off the Washington Wizards for a 113-105 win Monday at Ball Arena.

With 1:17 left and the Wizards within eight after trailing by 33 early in the third quarter, Aaron Gordon drove to his right, crossed the ball from his right hand to his left between his legs – sending defender Daniel Gafford to the court in the process – and finished with a powerful two-handed slam. Gordon finished a fast break in the first half with a windmill dunk, but Monte Morris thought the last highlight was more important.

“They was both big plays. I like the one in the clutch,” Morris said. “We needed a basket. Just putting that move and dunking it, that just shows what type of player he is. That’s big time. He’s a big-time player. That was dope to see.”

Gordon started the day questionable to play with back soreness, didn’t go through much of a morning shootaround but surprised his coach by making himself available.

“I think a lot of guys in Aaron’s situation probably wouldn’t have played, knowing that you’re going to be tasked with the responsibility of guarding a guy that has led the league in scoring,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

“He’s really cementing himself amongst the best defenders in the NBA and one of the more complete players in the NBA.”

Bradley Beal, Gordon’s defensive assignment for much of the night, scored 19 points on 19 shots for the Wizards and added 10 assists. Davis Bertans led the Wizards with 21 points off the bench.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 28 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists. He was approaching a 30-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist triple-double midway through the fourth quarter when he was ejected after picking up a pair of quick technical fouls with Washington making its second-half run.

“Nikola can’t do that,” Malone said. “He’s aware of that.”

Jokic acknowledged as much but maintained the two technicals were a bit much. He got the first technical while complaining to the official who was closest to the contact on a screen that set the Nuggets’ star off. The second came from an official farther from the action.

“I think I didn’t deserve it, especially the ejection,” Jokic said. “I just said, ‘Call a foul,’ because I thought it was a foul.”

Monte Morris added 22 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Gordon (16) and Jeff Green (13) also scored in double figures.

Early, it didn’t look like the Nuggets would need Jokic to close out the game, as the hosts seemed to enjoy themselves en route to a 59-41 lead at halftime. There was a series of flashy passes from Facundo Campazzo, including an over-the-head feed to Vlatko Cancar for a 3, an underhand pass to Cancar for a transition bucket and a behind-the-back pass that led to a Jokic bucket.

“Facu magic is amazing,” Green said. “That guy, you know, he plays hard every night. He leaves it out there on the floor. His ability to see the floor and make the passes that he’s able to make, it’s amazing.”

Gordon put down a windmill dunk later in the second quarter, and the typical dominance from Jokic, who scored 14 of his points, grabbed 12 of his rebounds and dished out four of his assists in 16 first-half minutes, helped the Nuggets close the first half in style.

The highlights continued into the second half, as Jokic found Morris in the corner in front of the Wizards’ bench for a four-point play that put Denver up 26. The lead grew to 30 three minutes into the second behind Green’s 3-point play followed by 3-pointer.

Green got one more highlight in the fourth quarter, as he cut baseline for a dunk and drew a foul after the Wizards closed within 15. The Nuggets still needed Gordon’s second dunk to put the game away.

“Well, Aaron’s only 26,” Green joked. “I would hope that he has enough in the tank to finish out the game. Aaron’s been playing tremendous. What he’s been giving us on both ends of the floor has been great.”

The Nuggets will look to put on one more show at Ball Arena on Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves before heading back on the road for a three-game trip.

Veteran guard Isaiah Thomas signs with Nuggets’ G League affiliate

There’s no guarantee Michael Malone and Isaiah Thomas will have another reunion this season, but it’s a possibility this season after the veteran guard signed with the Grand Rapids Gold, the Nuggets’ G League affiliate, on Monday.

Malone coached Thomas in the 2013-14 season with the Sacramento Kings. Thomas enjoyed a breakout season, posting averages of 20.3 points, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals. Thomas joined the Nuggets for 12 games of the 2018-19 season before continuing his career with Washington and New Orleans.

Load comments