WASHINGTON (AP) - The Denver Nuggets are off to an 11-5 start, and each night it seems a different player takes over.
On Friday night, they were without starting forward Nene, who was out with a bruised right heel. That gave Al Harrington a chance to shine.
Harrington scored a season-high 29 points - going 5 for 8 on 3-pointers - and Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson each had 21 to lead the Nuggets over the Washington Wizards 108-104.
In the last five games, the Nuggets have had a different leading scorer each time.
``I think that's probably who we'll be for most of the year. Sometimes you piece it together throughout the game,' coach George Karl said.
It was the fifth win in six games for the Nuggets, who expect Nene back Saturday in New York. That will be the first time Denver has faced Carmelo Anthony since he was traded to the Knicks last February.
``I think that's one of those games that motivates itself,' Karl said before Friday night's win. ``I don't think I'm going to have to give a really big pep talk.'
After Arron Afflalo gave Denver a 100-98 lead on a layup with 2:07 to play, Harrington hit a 3 with 1:14 left to make it 103-98.
Harrington played 30 minutes - and scored 27 in the last three quarters. The 14-year veteran has had great success in Washington. In his last three games at the Verizon Center, he's averaged 29 points and hit 16 of 24 shots from 3-point range.
``I feel like I can shoot every night like that. It just doesn't always happen that way,' Harrington said.
Washington dropped to 2-13 and failed to post its first two-game winning streak. Last season, it took the Wizards 39 games to win two in a row.
``Harrington killed us,' Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. ``We have a great defensive sequence and they throw it out to him at 30 feet and he throws it in at the buzzer.'
Nick Young led Washington with 25 points. John Wall had 13 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds - narrowly missing his second career triple-double.
Lawson scored 19 of his 21 points in the final three quarters and, at 5-foot-11, grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. He admires Wall, who had 63 points in his previous two games. The speedy Washington guard, however, missed 13 of his 17 shots Friday night - including all six in the fourth when the Wizards scored just 12 points in the final 7:49.
``He's maturing. Things are, you can just tell, in disarray, not with the organization, but the players on the court,' Lawson said. ``He's fighting through it. Eventually he's going to get some players around him and show exactly how good he is.'
Jordan Crawford had 18 points and scored the last nine for the Wizards. After he hit two free throws to cut the Nuggets' lead to 106-104 with 9.4 seconds left, Harrington secured the win with a dunk with 7.2 seconds remaining.
``We felt we were actually better than this team tonight and to give it up like - we shot ourselves in the foot, and it hurt,' Crawford said.
Saunders said his team is improving - even though the record doesn't show it.
``We're playing better than a week ago,' he said.
The Wizards led 63-61 at halftime. Nine days before, they scored a franchise-low 64 points in a loss to Chicago.
Washington led 37-27 after the first quarter, shooting 61.5 percent. The Wizards had 13 assists - their most in any quarter since April 15, 2000. Young had 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field, including three 3-pointers. He didn't take a shot in the second quarter, and scored four points in both the third and fourth.
Washington made eight of its 12 3-point attempts in the first half, but was 3 for 14 in the second half.
Lawson scored 12 points in the second quarter.
The Nuggets held the Wizards scoreless for nearly 4 minutes in the third quarter, taking a 78-71 lead with 4:39 to play.
NOTES: Pamela McGee, the mother of Wizards C JaVale McGee and a former WNBA player and coach, told the Washington Post that Saunders has unnecessarily publicly criticized her son. ``The one thing I never did as a coach, never, not once, in my career, was throw my players under a bus,' Pamela McGee said. Saunders said: ``We're happy with the development of JaVale and where he is.' ... When asked about it, Karl said: ``Would I trust Flip Saunders or would I trust a player's mother? I would say about 90 percent of the time Flip is a very good coach.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved