Nuggets look to keep pace with Warriors against Wizards

Having clinched a playoff spot last time out, the Denver Nuggets will work on improving their position when they visit the Washington Wizards on Thursday.

The Nuggets (47-22) have won four straight and are one-half game behind the Golden State Warriors for the top record in the Western Conference.

Denver rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the Boston Celtics 114-105 on Monday night to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2012-13.

Nikola Jokic had 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Will Barton added 20 points for the Nuggets, who opened a four-game road trip with the win.

"We said what we wanted to do at the beginning of the season and that's what we did," Jokic told the Denver Post. "Now we want to do something more."

After getting off to a cold start from beyond the arc early in the game, Denver finished the game with 14 3-pointers and shot 48.9 percent from the field.

Seven Denver turnovers allowed Boston to open up a five-point third-quarter lead. A key 5-0 scoring run from Torrey Craig allowed Denver to tie the game up at 80 heading into the final quarter and the Nuggets scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to open up an 86-80 lead.

"Guys stepped up and made big plays," Nuggets coach Michael Malone told the team's website. "Torrey Craig's energy, effort and productivity off the bench was really instrumental in the win tonight."

Washington saw its already slim playoff hopes take a hit Wednesday night when the Wizards lost to the Chicago Bulls 126-120 in overtime.

The 11th-place Wizards (30-42) lost for the third time in four games and trail the eighth-place Miami Heat by 5 1/2 games.

Lauri Markkanen had 32 points and 13 rebounds, and Kris Dunn scored a season-high 26 points -- including eight in overtime -- to go with 13 assists to lead Chicago.

"We gave up way too many (15) offensive rebounds," Wizards coach Scott Brooks told the Washington Post. "We made some mistakes defensively at critical times but both teams fought and played hard."

Washington lost to a Bulls team missing leading scorer Zach LaVine (bruised right thigh, right knee tendinitis) and former Wizard Otto Porter Jr. (strained right rotator cuff).

Jabari Parker continued his recent strong play with 28 points against his former team, his 10th-straight game with at least 15 points. Bradley Beal scored 27 and hit the tying jumper in the closing seconds of regulation.

"It's frustrating that we lost knowing that we're fighting for something and we were that close to winning," Bobby Portis told the Washington Post. "We did some great things, but we did some bad things too."

Chicago went on an 8-2 to start overtime but the Wizards got within two points when Beal hit 2 of 3 free throws with 44.6 seconds to play. But Markkanen hit a 3-pointer with 32.3 seconds left to seal the win for the Bulls and the Wizards were 0-for-6 from the field in overtime.

Washington's Trevor Ariza strained his left groin in the first half and did not return to play in the second half. Rookie Troy Brown Jr. started in Ariza's spot for the second half.

--Field Level Media

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