The last home game before a weeklong road trip sees one of the NBA’s best teams arrive at the Pepsi Center – the John Wall and Bradley Beal-led Washington Wizards. And the Wizards are arriving on two days’ rest. They have not played since beating the Detroit Pistons last Friday.
The Nuggets are coming off a victory in their season opener on Saturday, a defensive-sparked 96-79 win over Sacramento. A win would give the Nuggets a 2-1 start and momentum going into a four-game road trip and snap a two-game losing streak to the Wizards, who swept the Nuggets in two meetings last season.
Here are a few keys to success for the Nuggets on Monday night.
Be ultra-careful with ball handling and passing. This team was second in the NBA in steals per game (8.5) last season and in deflections (18.5). John Wall is a high steals point guard and small forward Otto Porter is a long and athletic defender, one of the best wing defenders in the league. The Wizards collected 12 steals in their last game, so the Nuggets have to be strong in handling the basketball and solid in passing. If not, Washington is a good as there is in getting the steal and getting into transition to finish with layups and dunks.
Starters must stay in contact with Wizards starters. Washington isn’t going to play a ton of players off the bench – and when they do put reserves in expect it to be for minimal minutes unless there is an injury or extensive foul trouble. Every Wizards starter played at least 33 minutes in their last game; and on two days rest the Nuggets can expect to see a repeat of that on Monday night. That means huge doses of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. Washington got 79 points from those three alone in their win over Detroit last Friday. The Nuggets should win the battle of the benches, and if those contributions can be so large that they help the starting unit offset Washington’s starters, that would be the best case scenario.
Pressure ball handlers on pick-and-roll. This is feast or famine territory. Washington is a deadly pick-and-roll team, with John Wall leading a host of guards that can all score coming off the screen. But the Wizards have shown a propensity to turn the ball over under pressure as well. If the Nuggets bigs can stay aggressive in pushing up from the screen creating impromptu double-teams and trapping situations, they’ll get their fair share of deflections and steals as well. Staying aggressive all night long is key.
INJURY REPORT: Forward Juancho Hernangomez is questionable for the game due to illness.
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.