Wizards grind out win in Denver, improve to 3-0

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The Wizards are not a franchise known for red hot starts to the season. Heading into their first road test on Monday night in Denver, they were on the verge of starting the year 3-0 for just the fourth time in the team’s 57 seasons. By the end of the night, they were looking forward to trying to become just the second team in the franchise’s history to get to 4-0.

Washington’s core continued to lead the way despite being without big men Jason Smith and Markieff Morris, as the Wizards’ three home-grown stars shined bright again Monday. Bradley Beal led the way with 20 points, while John Wall (19 points, 12 assists) and Otto Porter (17 points, 10 rebounds) posted double-doubles to lead D.C. to a 109-104 victory over the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.

Porter got the hot hand first Monday with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in a tightly contested first half that finished with the Wizards leading by one. The first half proved to be a microcosm of the game as a whole, as Washington overcame being out-shot by the Nuggets (48.8 percent to 44 percent from the field) by capitalizing on a plethora of Denver turnovers. By the time the night was over, the Wizards had scored a whopping 29 points off of 24 Nuggets miscues, a big factor in what was a neck-and-neck battle.

Down the stretch, a critical technical foul by Denver’s Nikola Jokic opened the door for Bradley Beal to extend a narrow two-point lead to three with 30 seconds remaining. That mistake proved costly when a Wizards stop on the other end helped Beal give Washington a two-possession lead with a strong driving finish with 12 seconds remaining.

With one game down on the road trip, the Wizards head to Los Angeles next for a meeting with the Lakers at Staples Center on Wednesday night (10:30 p.m. ET).

Some more quick notes on Monday night’s win that kicked off a four-game trip to the West Coast…

The duo becoming a trio

When the Wizards retained Otto Porter this offseason, there was much talk about perceived added pressure on the young Washington forward. While the season is just getting underway, it’s clear that Porter went about business as usual this summer and got better once again. He’s very much been a clear third star for the Wizards in the early going in addition to strong starts from John Wall and Bradley Beal. We’ll see where he goes from here as the year progresses.

Ride the (Oubre) wave

Kelly Oubre Jr. is in a pivotal year in his development where the Wizards want to see him make a jump in his third NBA season. So far, so good. He’s never been one to back down from a challenge, but his confidence – particularly as a scorer – is markedly improved.

Oubre stepped into the starting lineup again Monday in the absence of Jason Smith and Keef Morris and handled a difficult matchup against a talented Nuggets frontcourt in Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic. The Denver duo got their points, but Oubre competed and was efficient on the offensive end, shooting 50 percent en route to 14 points, four rebounds, a pair of steals and a +12 ratio on the night (tied with Porter for best on the team).

Quick hits

– The Wizards missed just two of their 28 free throws Monday, hitting 92.9 percent from the line.

-With just over 28 free throws made per game, the Wizards lead the NBA in the category (as well as free throw attempts) on the young season.

– Washington’s backup point guards came to play against a Denver team with plenty of young guard depth. Tim Frazier scored 10 points (3-of-4 shooting) to go with three assists, while Tomas Satoransky scored a quick five points in his four minutes of action.

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