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Wizards follow a familiar script to fall to 0-3

Washington allows 43-point 4th quarter to lose to the Magic for a second straight night.

Orlando Magic v Washington Wizards
Wizards guard Raul Neto is earning a role in the team’s rotation.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

No Russell Westbrook, no problem. Starting in his place, Raul Neto lit up the Capital One Arena with 22 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. But, the Wizards gave up 43 points in the fourth quarter to blow a 17-point lead and lose, 120-113 and fall to 0-3 on the season.

The Wizards are a strange team, in part because of the odd decisions of head coach Scott Brooks. A coach’s most important job is setting lineups and apportioning minutes to the team’s best players. Once again, he cobbled together strange combinations that seemed designed to put players in position to fail while leaving productive, effective performers on the bench.

Two nights ago, he gave extended minutes to Jerome Robinson while letting Neto sit the entire second half. Last night, Isaac Bonga hit his shots, grabbed rebounds and defended effectively, but received just 18 minutes. Meanwhile, he gave Robinson two disastrous shifts — the team was -15 in the 7 minutes Robinson was on the floor.

It was another bad outing for Ish Smith. When I ran my preseason forecast, I warned that Smith was at an age when a significant drop-off can come without warning. Three games isn’t enough time to be sure, but his performance has trended the wrong direction so far.

Neto gives them another option though I’d tap the brakes on definitively moving him ahead of Smith in the PG pecking order. NBA history is replete with marginal players having terrific games and never performing that well again. Of course, NBA history also has examples of marginal players who suddenly improve when they find the right situation and role. It’s too early to tell at this point. He deserves more playing time to see.

Troy Brown Jr. was on the receiving end of online vitriol last night, but he was actually decent — 5-7 from the floor, 2-4 from three-point range. His defense was okay too.

The game was another mixed bag for Thomas Bryant. He had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, and a handful of excellent defensive plays. He also piled up dumb fouls from being over-aggressive. He did a good job against Nikola Vucevic in the post — repeatedly forcing the All-Star center into difficult shots. Two fourth quarter possessions were impressive — playing with 5 fouls, Bryant did an excellent job moving his feet, keeping his hands high and holding his ground by using his chest to absorb Vucevic’s attempts to dislodge him.

It was another poor game for Robin Lopez, despite shooting 4-6 from the floor and grabbing 5 rebounds in 16 minutes. One of those baskets was a fluke — he was trying to keep the ball from going out of bounds and his chuck happened to find the basket. The Wizards can probably get this level of play from Moritz Wagner or Anthony Gill or even Yoeli Childs (who they released).

While Deni Avdija’s overall rating was a below average 86 PPA (see table below), I liked how he played. He does an excellent job of moving his feet and cutting off penetration while keeping his arms extended to the side. He didn’t shoot well, but he made good passes and attacked the rim. On one play, he waved off Ish Smith and Bradley Beal, and called for a ball screen. That’s a sign of growing confidence.

As for Beal, it was an inefficient night where he tried to do too much. He shot just 10-29, including 0-7 on threes. Too many possessions degenerated into him twisting and turning to get shots for himself when he could have been using the intense defensive focus on him to create for his teammates.

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).

Four Factors: Magic at Wizards

EFG 0.488 0.526
OREB% 0.244 0.277
TOV% 0.100 0.130
FTM/FGA 0.435 0.113
PACE 100 100
ORTG 120 113

The Wizards shot better from the floor and had the edge on the boards, but lost because they couldn’t defend without fouling. The Magic shot 37-38 from the free throw line as Washington committed 26 fouls to 14 for Orlando.

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

Raul Neto 32 216 1
Thomas Bryant 32 134 1
Isaac Bonga 18 214 20
Deni Avdija 36 86 13
Troy Brown Jr. 24 110 -24
Bradley Beal 39 63 -1
Robin Lopez 16 50 -8
Ish Smith 16 0 -8
Davis Bertans 19 -24 -14
Jerome Robinson 7 -213 -15

Magic PPA

Nikola Vucevic 28 199 -11
Terrence Ross 31 144 22
Markelle Fultz 29 147 -11
Michael Carter-Williams 23 185 28
Cole Anthony 19 217 18
Evan Fournier 28 124 -15
Khem Birch 20 99 18
Dwayne Bacon 17 48 -15
Aaron Gordon 20 42 -12
Chuma Okeke 16 30 -5
Gary Clark 9 -91 18