Washington Wizards vs. Denver Nuggets Pick & Prediction JANUARY 21st 2024

The Denver Nuggets beat the team with the best record in the NBA on Friday night and now will face a team trying to stay out of the league’s cellar.

Denver handed the Boston Celtics their first home loss of the season, 102-100, on Friday night in a game that had a playoff feel, but the Nuggets have to quickly turn the page to face the host Washington Wizards on Sunday evening.

It will be Denver’s third contest in a five-game Eastern Conference trip that will end Thursday night in New York and began with two marquee matchups, first in Philadelphia and then in Boston.

The Nuggets’ two stars accounted for nearly 70 percent of the scoring against the Celtics. Jamal Murray had 35 points and Nikola Jokic scored 34 and finished an assist shy of his 13th triple-double of the season.

He also played the game with heavy emotions due to the sudden passing of fellow Serbian and Golden State assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, 46, who died Wednesday after suffering a heart attack at a team dinner on Tuesday night.

Jokic worked with Milojevic as he developed in Serbia and was friends with him. Jokic honored him with one of his best games of the season.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Nikola for playing the way he played with the tragic passing of Deki,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “That’s what you do, though. That’s why I’m proud of Nikola. You just lost somebody that you love and you care about that meant a lot to you, that was a mentor and a coach to you.

“So go honor him. And Nikola went out there, he honored Deki’s memory and his legacy by playing at the level he played at. Not easy to do with a heavy heart, but Nikola is a special person.”

The Nuggets are trying to defend their NBA title while Washington is struggling to win games, and the Wizards let one slip away against the equally woeful San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night, 131-127.

The Wizards have just seven victories this season and only once have won two games in a four-game span. Now they will face Denver less than 21 hours after losing to San Antonio.

The rough season prompted the front office to shake up the roster a week ago, sending Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala to Detroit for Marvin Bagley III, Isaiah Livers and two future second-round picks.

The trade didn’t disrupt a locker room that has stuck together despite the struggles this season.

The Wizards have lost three games in a row and nine of their past 10.

“Even though we’re not having a great season and [there are] people struggling and we’re still trying to get in rhythm, I feel like everybody’s still so supportive and happy, and we’re there for each other,” said Deni Avdija, who at 23 is the longest-tenured player on Washington’s roster.

Two seasons ago, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a veteran presence in Washington’s locker room, but he was traded to the Nuggets in the summer of 2022 and became a key cog in their run to the NBA title.

The Wizards have two players with championship experience in Kyle Kuzma (2020 Los Angeles Lakers) and Jordan Poole (2022 Warriors), but it will be hard to capitalize on that against a rested and rolling Denver team.

–Field Level Media

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