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With league’s worst defense title on the line, Wizards collapse in the 4th quarter

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NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards
Rui Hachimura played well at both ends in the Wizards loss to the Cavaliers.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For much of the game, it looked like I was going to be able to lead with this: “The Wizards no longer have the NBA’s worst defense.” Instead, they folded in the fourth quarter and let the league’s second worst defense leave Washington with a victory.

The loss to Cleveland was markedly different from the Wizards’ all offense, no defense formula this season. Their defense against the Cavaliers was decent (a defensive rating of 110, which is about league average), but their offense was a catastrophe of missed shots (many of them open) and miscues.

The acceptable defense was a continuation of what may be a trend. In the 49 games before they traded away Isaiah Thomas — who is the least effective I’ve seen in four decades of watching and analyzing the NBA — their defensive rating was 117.7, which put them in contention for the worst defense in NBA history.

In the five games since dealing Thomas, their defensive rating is 105.8, which would be the third best mark in the league if they’d done it all season. Now, the Wizards have surely been helped by crappy opponents. Their post-deadline opposition has been the Warriors, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Bulls, Knicks and Cavaliers.

Dallas is good, and they torched the Wizards. But the rest are just plain bad, with the possible exception of Memphis, which is arguably in the vicinity of mediocre.

Washington’s fourth quarter collapse kept them from earning their first three-game win streak of the season. The Wizards have a couple winnable games (Chicago and Brooklyn) over the next week. They’ll be heavy underdogs against the Bucks.

Player Production Average and Scoreboard Impact Rating

Below are results from a couple metrics I developed. Player Production Average (PPA) is an overall production metric that’s pace neutral and accounts for defense. It rewards players for doing things to help their team and debits them for things that don’t — each in proper proportion. In PPA, 100 is average and higher is better.

Scoreboard Impact Rating (SIR) translates overall production into points on the scoreboard in this game.

Wizards PPA and SIR

WIZARDS MIN PPA SIR
WIZARDS MIN PPA SIR
Hachimura 30 245 30
Brown 20 227 18
Bertans 26 136 14
Napier 18 169 12
Bryant 16 170 11
Smith 30 55 7
Bonga 20 79 6
Robinson 14 89 5
Mahinmi 16 74 5
Wagner 16 -99 0
Beal 34 -88 0

Cavaliers PPA and SIR

CAVALIERS MIN PPA SIR
CAVALIERS MIN PPA SIR
Osman 30 237 29
Thompson 26 272 29
Exum 24 161 16
Garland 36 88 13
Nance 26 119 13
Sexton 34 62 9
Drummond 22 61 5
Dellavedova 7 -46 0
Love 23 -46 0
Porter 13 -266 0

In his first action since being left out of the All-Star game, Bradley Beal turned in a dud performance — 9-28 shooting with 6 turnovers and just 3 rebounds and 1 assist.

Hachimura played well, posting an efficient 17 points and 7 rebounds. He also continued to show the increased defensive awareness he’s displayed since returning from injury. These are promising developments for the rookie.

Thomas Bryant was solid in limited minutes. He had several excellent defensive possessions late, including one in which he corralled the ball-handler in a pick and roll, recovered to his man (Tristan Thompson), and then forced Thompson into a tough hook shot that missed.