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Injury-ravaged Nuggets claim win over Wizards

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DENVER — The Denver Nuggets might be running out of healthy bodies, but that did not stop them from winning Sunday.

Forward Kenneth Faried had 20 points and eight rebounds as the short-handed Nuggets overcame a 14-point deficit in the first quarter to defeat the Washington Wizards 105-102.

Denver won its fifth straight home game. Nuggets guard Randy Foye had 17 points and forward Darrell Arthur added 15 off the bench, which outscored Washington’s reserves 52-28.

Sunday was Denver’s first game since forward J.J. Hickson, the team’s leading rebounder, tore his right ACL on Friday night in Dallas and was lost for the season. The Nuggets lost forward Jan Vesely on Sunday to a left ribcage contusion in the third quarter, and they played without starting forward Wilson Chandler because of a left hip strain.

Forward Danilo Gallinari (torn left ACL) is out for the season. Guard Nate Robinson (sprained left ACL) has not played since Jan. 29. And center JaVale McGee (left tibia stress fracture) has been out since November. Barring a miracle, the Nuggets (32-38) will miss the playoffs this spring for the first time since 2003.

None of that should matter, the team says.

“Injuries are a part of the game so as long as we have enough players on the floor, we still have to compete to get the win,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said.

Faried said, “You’re playing for yourself. My contact. I’m getting an extension next year, so I’m playing for myself and my family. I’m playing for my teammates because I want (us) to get at least over .500. That’s the least we can do. We know we’re not going to make the playoffs, but we’re going to keep fighting.”

The Wizards lacked urgency for a team that is fighting for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference. They opened a 14-point, first-quarter lead before cooling off and becoming mistake-prone. They committed a season-high 24 turnovers, including 15 after halftime, in losing for the third time in their past four games.

“We aren’t going to beat anybody with 24 turnovers,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “When you give away a couple games like we did (recently), that doesn’t send a good message of where our thought process is in this whole thing.”

The Nuggets had to hold off a late Wizards rally. Washington pulled to two with 10 seconds to go after trailing by eight with a minute left. But Denver guard Aaron Brooks and forward Darrell Arthur hit two throws each in the final 9.7 seconds.

Arthur also grabbed a loose ball that Washington forward Trevor Ariza had dropped with about six seconds to play.

“It’s just careless turnovers and over-dribbling, especially with me jumping in the air and looking for passes where guys could’ve been,” Wizards guard John Wall said about the turnovers. “I feel like we could’ve won this game with how we opened up, but we turned the ball over too much.”

The Nuggets took a 91-84 lead midway through the fourth quarter behind two driving baskets by guard Evan Fournier and Arthur’s 3-pointer during a 7-0 run. Washington led for most of the first half before the Nuggets closed to two at halftime. There were nine lead changes and 14 ties.

Guard Bradley Beal led Washington with 21 points. Ariza added 18, but only three came after the first quarter.

Denver plays at Oklahoma City on Monday. Vesely’s status was unknown.

“We just have to come out and play harder, like tonight,” Arthur said. “No matter how many points we’re down, just keep fighting and clawing and find a way to win.”

NOTES: Wizards G Andre Miller returned to Denver for the first time since his Jan. 1 in-game blowup at Shaw. Miller did not play for Denver again, and the Nuggets traded him to Washington on Feb. 20 in a deal that sent f Jan Vesely to Denver. Miller said Sunday that it was his choice to stay away after the incident. “I said I wanted to stay away and they granted it,” Miller said. Miller said he was asked to come back after injuries to Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson left Denver without a point guard, but he declined. “I didn’t want to bring any more attention to the organization or to the players to distract them from moving forward,” he said. Shaw and Miller had not spoken since Jan. 1, but they wished each other good luck during Sunday’s game, according to Miller. “It’s unfortunate that it had to happen and neither one of us wanted that to happen, but I don’t have a problem with (Miller),” Shaw said of the Jan. 1 incident.