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Daily Digits: The Wizards aren’t starting games on the right foot

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NBA: Washington Wizards at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Daily Digits is a new daily feature we’re doing at Bullets Forever this year where we take a look at stats about the Wizards. We’ll dive into the numbers, add some context, and discuss how they affect the product on the court.

Today’s stat is the Wizards’ net rating in the first quarter, which is...

-10.1

The Wizards haven’t always ended games well, but they’ve been usually been great at the start. In 2016-17, Washington had the fifth-best first quarter net rating. In 2014-15, they were eighth. They were also eighth in 2013-14.

Washington wasn’t as good last season or in 2015-16, but that’s understandable considering both of those years were both hampered by John Wall injuries, which made it harder for the Wizards to hit the ground running.

It’s a lot harder to explain why the Wizards have struggled so much this season, with Wall healthy. Only five teams—the Lakers, Kings, Pistons, Mavericks, and Suns—have played worse in the first quarter than Washington so far this season. Through the first ten games of the season, they’ve only led twice after the first quarter.

Struggling out of the gates is a bigger problem for the Wizards than it is for most teams. If they can’t get out to an early lead in the first quarter with their starters, it’s extremely difficult to get that lead back in the second quarter with their bench, and if they aren’t leading heading into the closing minutes, it’s almost impossible to claw back into the game when the transition opportunities dry up.

Whatever the cause, Washington has to figure out why they’ve been so flat to start games. If they can’t solve that issue, they’re not going to get to the bottom of why they’ve started this season so slow either.