Wizards prevail in roller coaster game with Nuggets with Deni Avdija playing a role in the comeback run

Feb 17, 2021 | Deni Avdija

No matter the result, the Washington Wizards provide an exciting brand of basketball. Even when it looked like they had a commanding lead, up nine with three minutes to play, they allowed the Denver Nuggets to tie the game at 128 for peak theatrics. Bradley Beal would go on to earn a foul call with just a tenth of a second remaining to eventually secure the Wizards a 130-128 victory and their first three-game winning streak since 2018. Deni Avdija had three points on 1-for-3 shooting, seven rebounds, and two assists in 21 minutes of play off the bench.

Deni Avdija and Nikola Jokic both with Serbian roots meet before battle – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

Entering the second night of a back-to-back after playing in Boston on Tuesday, Denver came out firing with a 41 point first quarter. Washington had no answer for Nikola Jokic who had 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting in less than 10 minutes and the road team cashed in six Wizards turnovers for 12 points as well as six offensive rebounds for 13 second chance points. Russell Westbrook gave his teammates an earful during the home team’s second first-quarter timeout that Scott Brooks described as “saying a few things, that were probably well-deserved, to some guys that needed to hear it.” The start of Washington’s turnaround from a 41-21 deficit came from a double-clutch three-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer from Avdija.

Following Denver’s 37-16 run in the first quarter, Washington responded with a 35-13 run of their own. In the second quarter the Wizards cashed in six Nuggets turnovers for 15 points and Davis Bertans continued his hot shooting that he felt from last game with 4-for-4 shooting from deep in the frame. After Moe Wagner and Alex Len struggled to contain MVP candidate Nikola Jokic early, Brooks turned to veteran Robin Lopez who had success. Jokic had just two points on 1-for-6 shooting in the second quarter and finished with just 17 points on 6-for-15 shooting over the final three quarters, which is about as good as Washington could ask for.

One aspect of Avdija’s game that continues to impress me is that he is constantly looking to set up his teammates before himself. Pushing the ball up the floor off a turnover early in the second quarter, Avdija could have easily tried to back down the smaller Monte Morris in the paint with his seven-inch height advantage. Instead, he kept his eyes up looking for a pass and provided a perfect dime to Davis Bertans for one of his career-high nine three-pointers in the game.

“Deni just comes in every day and just wants to get better, wants to improve,” Scott Brooks detailed pre-game. “We don’t give NBA players enough credit with what they have to go through in a normal NBA year and this year is not normal. It is mentally exhausting and taxing and as a young player, everything is coming at you so fast. The learning curve is tough. You got to figure out your own game on top of what we do offensively, what we do defensively, what we do in special situations, what we do in jump balls, what we do in free throws, what we do on baseline, sideline, end of games, need a two, down two, up three, all the different scenarios. That’s a lot coming at you and I think he’s handled it pretty well. I like where he is, I like how he competes day-to-day and some days are going to look better than others. That’s very normal.”

Washington now embarks on their first West Coast road trip where they will face the gauntlet of Blazers, Lakers, Clippers, and these Nuggets again starting on Saturday night in Portland.

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