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Putting the Wizards’ disastrous fourth quarters into context

NBA: Houston Rockets at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For as bad as things have felt during the Wizards’ 1-5 start to the season, one has to concede that Washington has at least been competitive in every game this season. The Wizards have either been tied or in the lead at some point in all six games. So despite all the clear flaws the team has this season, it’s not as if they’re incapable of winning.

While we can debate what the root cause of the Wizards’ issues are this season, the place it has affected the team the most is in their fourth quarter performance. The team’s scoring margin quarter-by-quarter paints a pretty clear picture of why the team has struggled this season

The Wizards have the worst point differential in the fourth quarter in the NBA this season, one point worse than the Philadelphia 76ers (who earned their -45 point differential entirely in regulation). And this is a case of a few bad fourth quarters outweighing some decent ones. Washington has been outscored in every fourth quarter this season, even in the game they won against the Hawks.

For those of you who like to dive into the advanced stats, the Wizards have a Net Rating of -28.4, which means they’re getting outscored by an average of 28.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s very bad!

The Wizards’ Offensive Rating in the fourth quarter is a paltry 92.6, the fifth-worst in the league in the fourth quarter. A big part of it is turnovers. The team has more turnovers (27) than assists (21) in that frame. The other part is that when they don’t turn it over, they still aren’t getting in the hoop. They’re only shooting 6-32 beyond the arc (18.8 percent, tied for the second-worst mark in the league) and their effective field goal percentage in the fourth quarter is just 40.7 percent, the fourth-worst mark in the league.

The scary thing is the Wizards are much worse on the defensive end in the fourth quarter than they are on offense. Their Defensive Rating in the fourth is 120.9, nearly six points worse than the 29th-ranked Indiana Pacers. How does that happen? It happens when the opposing team shoots 50 PERCENT ON THREES. It isn’t any better inside the arc, where teams are shooting 55.7 percent.

Let’s put it another way: The 1986-87 Lakers posted the best Offensive Rating in NBA history, scoring 115.6 points per 100 possessions. So the Wizards are allowing their opponents to score more effectively than the best offense of all-time in the fourth quarter. On the other end, they’re scoring at a slightly better rate than the 1998-99 Bulls. When you have games turn into the peak Showtime Lakers against the Bulls in the first year of the post-MJ era, even if it’s just for 12 minutes, you’re going to lose a lot of games.