WASHINGTON (AP) – To prepare for the playoffs, Denver coach Brian Shaw said he wants his high-scoring team to learn to win tough games.
There was no better training ground for bump-and-grind basketball than Monday’s 75-74 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Washington had three possessions after Faried put Denver ahead, but John Wall missed a layup, Trevor Ariza missed a 3-pointer, Chandler blocked a layup try by Garrett Temple, and Robinson stripped the ball from Wall in the closing seconds.
Denver, which came in sixth in the NBA in scoring (104 points per game), had its lowest output of the season – falling 13 points below its previous low – but was able to conclude a 4-2 road trip. Holding Washington without a field goal for the final 4:04, Denver showed some of the grit that it hopes to employ later in the season.
“We didn’t even get into the 80’s tonight,” Shaw said. “But just being able to execute down the stretch, make tough defensive stops when we needed to, I thought we did that tonight, especially at the end of the game.”
Chandler also had eight rebounds as the Nuggets rallied from 12 points down in the second half, and Robinson helped the Denver reserves outscore their depleted Washington counterparts 34-5.
Wall was miffed by a no-call at the end of the game, when Robinson made the last of his four steals.
“Same thing that was happening all game but I didn’t get the call,” Wall said. “Nate Robinson was grabbing my arm every time I went by him and that’s how I lost the ball and we lose a tough game tonight.”
In the other locker room, Robinson told reporters that he would “let you all make that decision.”
Robinson had another key play when sneaked through a screen, stole a pass, and streaked for a fast-break layup, giving Denver its first lead since the second quarter, 73-72.
“You gotta be scrappy, do whatever it takes to win,” Robinson said.
Washington led most of the way behind Wall, but with four rotation players out, Washington got only five points from six reserves who played a combined 62 minutes and shot just 2 for 13.
“We’ve got to get more than five points from our bench,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “That’s gotta get better for us, no question about it. I think we got up 12 at the end of the third. I looked up, it’s two right away. I gotta figure out a way to find guys that are gonna go out there and increase it by 12, keep it at 12, keep it at 10, keep it at eight, until you can get your main guys back.”
Neither team led by more than four points in a stagnant first half until Washington scored six straight points, including four by Wall, to go up 43-36 with 2 minutes to go before the break.
Washington remained in command in the third quarter, pushing its lead to 58-46 on a jumper by Wall. However, the 5-foot-9 Robinson came off the bench for Denver and scored eight points.
Timofey Mozgov‘s tip-in before the end of the quarter pulled Denver to 60-58.
The Wizards still had control until midway through the fourth quarter when reserve forward Jordan Hamilton hit consecutive 3-pointers and former Wizards guard Randy Foye followed with another 3-pointer with a drive and pass to Chandler for a dunk, setting the scene for the final grind.
“We missed a lot of open shots. They missed a lot of open shots. It was terrible basketball,” Faried said. “It’s like that sometimes but we came out with a win, so we’ll take it.”
NOTES: The Wizards announced during the game that forward Al Harrington underwent surgery on Monday to remove particles from his right knee and will be re-evaluated in four weeks. … Washington also disclosed that top scorer Bradley Beal has been cleared to increase basketball activities. The second-year guard, who missed his seventh straight game on Monday, has been out with a stress injury to his left fibula. … Washington also was without Nene (foot tendinitis) and Martel Webster (ankle sprain), who remain day-to-day. … Denver was without top scorer Ty Lawson (hamstring), who missed an opportunity to play in his hometown. Front-court players Danillo Gallinari and Javale McGee remain out for the Nuggets . With Beal and Webster out, Glen Rice Jr. made his starting debut for Washington.
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