Another triple double for Russell Westbrook and another loss for the Wizards. Westbrook is both fun to watch and infuriating. His stat line is almost cartoonish — 15 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists. It sounds awesome.
But, those 15 points came on 19 field goal attempts. He missed 13 shots and committed five turnovers — a few coming on galling passes he had no business attempting. For a second straight game, he led the team with 17 zero point possessions — 27% of the team’s total. Bradley Beal was second with 14. But Beal scored 34 points. Thomas Bryant scored 19 points and had just 3 zero point possessions.
The 2019-20 Wizards defense was back last night. The Orlando Magic torched them with a 56.3% effective field goal percentage. Their balanced attack had three guys with 20 or more points (Terrence Ross had 25, Nikola Vucevic 22, and Markelle Fultz 21).
It was a subpar defensive outing for Bryant, who rightfully deserves a measure of blame for the team’s crummy defense. But he was hardly alone. Perimeter defenders routinely failed to contain penetration and permitted the Magic plenty of open looks. Backup center Robin Lopez got lit up Khem Birch, his counterpart with Orlando.
Head coach Scott Brooks continues to baffle with his lineup decisions. He once again deployed a lineup featuring Ish Smith, Raul Neto, and Russell Westbrook. Once again, he inexplicably used Troy Brown Jr. at PF. These lineups are bizarre because they’re small yet lack good shooting. Good lineups accentuate player strengths. These micro combinations highlight weaknesses.
Even stranger, is the persistence in giving minutes to Jerome Robinson, who is nowhere close to being even a decent NBA player. I can see the argument for turning to Robinson when Deni Avdija picked up his third foul in the second quarter. But Robinson went out and did nothing with those first half minutes. Meanwhile, Neto shot a perfect 4-4 from the floor, including 3-3 from three-point range. In the second half, Neto didn’t play while Robinson got extended minutes. With which he did nothing. Shocker.
In just 9 minutes of playing time, Neto was the team’s third most productive player last night (11 points on 4 shots). In 20 minutes, Robinson was the least productive — 0-3 from the floor, a turnover and 4 fouls.
Bryant was a mixed bag. He scored efficiently (19 points on 11 shots), but managed just 5 rebounds in 30 minutes, and he had a bizarre tip dunk of an Orlando shot attempt — the basketball equivalent of a soccer own goal. And, he got scored on repeatedly in the fourth quarter by Vucevic in the post. That’s not exactly a crime — Vucevic is an outstanding player. But the Wizards need more from Bryant on the defensive end.
The bright spot for Washington was Beal, who poured in 39 points on 24 shots. He added 7 rebounds and 5 assists, and did a lot of the offensive heavy lifting to keep them in touch with Orlando in the fourth quarter.
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).
Four Factors: Magic at Wizards
The Magic “won” all four factors — they shot better, won the rebounding battle, committed fewer turnovers and did a better job making their free throws. It’s somewhat surprising the Wizards lost by only 10.
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.
|Troy Brown Jr.||13||-190||3|
I know the Wizards like Robinson. I know they want to give him opportunities to succeed. If their goal is to win, they need to stop playing him. They’d be smart to tighten the rotation and stop trying to play 10-11 guys each night.
Right now, the rotation should be comprised of Beal, Westbrook, Bertans, Bryant, Avdija, Bonga, Troy Brown Jr., Lopez and either Neto or Ish Smith. It doesn’t matter much whether it’s Neto or Smith because their overall impact is likely to be similar. I’d lean towards giving the backup role to Neto because his better shooting and defense would fit better with Westbrook than Smith’s helter-skelter playmaking.
Of course, a more logical fit would be second-year wing Garrison Mathews, who’s an outstanding shooter. Mathews has been inactive for each of the first two games.
When Rui Hachimura comes back from pink eye, he should slide into the forward rotation and take minutes from Brown and Bonga.
This isn’t a developmental season. The Wizards need to get serious about the lineups they deploy and figure out a way to have at least a semi-effective defense. What they’re doing so far is a recipe for a disappointing season.