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By the Numbers: Wizards lose opener despite Westbrook’s triple-double

Let’s break down the stats behind the Wizards’ first game of the 2020-21 season.

Washington Wizards v Philadelphia 76ers
Wizards guard Russell Westbrook posted a triple-double in his first game with the team.
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

One reason why the Wizards lost despite a gaudy 21 points, 11 rebounds, 15 assists triple-double from Russell Westbrook is that it came with a less than gaudy 13 missed shots and 6 turnovers. It also came with an array of defensive breakdowns, including a baffling decision to leave 76ers guard Ben Simmons undefended under the basket in the game’s final 30 seconds.

What Westbrook does is often impressive, but it comes with negatives too. Last night, he accounted for 18 zero point possessions — 29% of the team’s total. Backcourt running mate Bradley Beal was second with 16. No one from the Philadelphia 76ers had more than 10.

Westbrook’s less than mind-blowing triple-double wasn’t really what cost them the game, though. Even with Thomas Bryant getting pushed around by Joel Embiid, the Wizards starters played well enough to win. They lost because of an utter collapse from the bench — something not helped by head coach Scott Brooks choosing to play strange lineups with little chance of success.

At one point, Brooks had Westbrook on the floor with Ish Smith, Raul Neto and Troy Brown, a bizarre grouping that was small and still lacked shooting. Brooks kept pairing Smith with Westbrook — a baffling decision given that neither guy is a three-point threat.

Robin Lopez, signed to improve the team’s defense and rebounding (the team’s reasoning, not mine), was thoroughly dominated by Embiid. The Philadelphia center was relatively quiet until he got going against Lopez and he kept it going from there.

Bryant got dominated too, especially in the second half. He made some nice defensive plays but also got overpowered by Embiid on multiple occasions. He also took some ill-advised shots, bricked his threes and committed too many fouls. The bright side: he probably won’t play this bad again any time soon.

Davis Bertans, limited to 20 minutes until he can get back in game shape, put on his usual shooting clinic — 4-6 from three. His second quarter offensive onslaught erased a double-digit 76ers lead. He had more difficulty getting his shot when Philadelphia adjusted.

Rookie Deni Avdija started and played a competent game. He took just two shots (making them both) in 28 minutes, and his defense was acceptable. I think he’ll be more valuable (and get more developmental opportunities) coming off the bench where he can take more of an initiator role. With the starting group, he may get lost in the Westbrook-Beal show.

That’s probably not an option over the next couple weeks with Rui Hachimura sidelined with pink eye and Bertans working his way back into playing shape.

Four Factors

Below are the four factors that decide who wins and loses in basketball — shooting (efg), rebounding (offensive rebounding percentage), ball handling (turnovers), fouling (free throws made divided by field goal attempts).

Wizards at Sixers Four Factors

EFG 0.517 0.535
OREB% 0.222 0.119
TOV% 0.142 0.180
FTM/FGA 0.264 0.188
PACE 105 105
ORTG 107 101

While post-game analysis and comments suggest the Wizards lost on the defensive end, the real problem was their offense. Last season, the league average offensive rating was just under 111 points per 100 possessions. Washington held Philadelphia to an offensive rating of 107, but they committed 19 turnovers and were -7 at the free throw line.

In fairness, the defense fell apart in the fourth quarter when they allowed 40 points in the period to lose a winnable game.

This was the relatively rare NBA game in which the losing team had a higher effective field goal percentage.

Player Production Average

Below are Player Production Average (PPA) results from last night’s game. PPA is my overall production metric, which credits players for things they do that help a team win (scoring, rebounding, play-making, defending) and dings them for things that hurt (missed shots, turnovers, bad defense, fouls). PPA is a per possession stat that includes accounting for defense. In PPA, 100 is average and higher is better.

The table below is sorted by each player’s total contributions for the game.

Wizards PPA

Davis Bertans 20 293 -3
Bradley Beal 36 131 6
Isaac Bonga 17 166 7
Deni Avdija 28 99 14
Russell Westbrook 36 67 10
Ish Smith 23 53 -21
Moritz Wagner 6 176 8
Troy Brown Jr. 22 23 -23
Raul Neto 10 18 -14
Robin Lopez 17 -73 -16
Thomas Bryant 26 -102 2

76ers PPA

Joel Embiid 35 226 -2
Shake Milton 30 221 33
Ben Simmons 32 147 -2
Seth Curry 32 113 -1
Dwight Howard 13 222 8
Furkan Korkmaz 20 109 14
Mike Scott 17 65 13
Tyrese Maxey 11 84 3
Matisse Thybulle 0 0 -2
Danny Green 18 -10 -27
Tobias Harris 31 -47 -7

Westbrook’s 67 PPA is not the lowest single game PPA I’ve seen connected to a triple-double. In the past 2-3 seasons, Lebron James posted a triple-double that rated below replacement level because of poor shooting and extremely high turnovers.