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Wizards overcome atrocious first half to beat Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans v Washington Wizards
Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija with a layup.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

An ugly win is still a win. And last night’s 105-100 victory over the sad-sack New Orleans Pelicans was ugly.

In the first half, the Wizards did everything they could to give the game away. The Pelicans rolled to a 19-point lead as Washington bumbled their way to 41 points and and effective field goal percentage of just 38.6%.

But, they’d reserved the season’s worst half of basketball for their most feeble opponent. In the second half, the Wizards had a scorching 67.5% efg to the Pelicans’ 32.9%. Washington’s defense was definitely better in the second half, but they still permitted a ton of open looks. NBA tracking credited them with just 27 contested shots in the game and only 8 contested threes.

That was good enough to beat a disastrously bad Pelicans. Obviously the Wizards will need to play a more complete game to beat competent NBA teams.

Even so, winning a game after playing such a wretched first half is something the Wizards have rarely been able to accomplish over the past three-to-four decades. They’re now 10-3 and off to their best start since 1974.

Observations:

  • Spencer Dinwiddie was sensational — 27 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists and just 1 turnover. He appears to have made himself into a much better shooter during his time out last season due to injury.
  • Deni Avdija continues to have a stellar season defensively. Last night, he his shots, had a spectacular block on Josh Hart and grabbed 10 defensive rebounds. He was a major contributor to the team’s win, even with a 10% usage rate.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had one of his better games of the season, though I’d be fine if he didn’t try to dribble or attack closeouts — basically ever.

Next up for the Wizards is an interesting matchup against the 8-7 Charlotte Hornets, followed by a home-and-home against the Miami Heat.

Four Factors

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

I’ve simplified them a bit. While the factors are usually presented as percentages, that’s more useful over a full season. In a single game, the raw numbers in each category are easier to understand.

PACE is possessions per 48 minutes.

Four Factors: Pelicans 100 at Wizards 105

FOUR FACTORS PELICANS WIZARDS
FOUR FACTORS PELICANS WIZARDS
EFG 0.480 0.524
OREB 7 6
TOV 12 5
FTM 29 17
PACE 92
ORTG 108 114

Key Stats

Below are a few performance metrics, including the Player Production Average (PPA) Game Score (very similar to the one I used to call Scoreboard Impact Rating). PPA is my overall production metric, which credits players for things they do that help a team win (scoring, rebounding, playmaking, defending) and dings them for things that hurt (missed shots, turnovers, bad defense, fouls).

Game Score (GmSC) converts individual production into points on the scoreboard in this game. The scale is the same as points and reflects each player’s total contributions for the game. The lowest possible GmSC is zero.

PPA is a per possession metric designed for larger data sets. In small sample sizes, the numbers can get weird. But some readers prefer it so I’m including PPA scores as well. Reminder: in PPA, 100 is average, higher is better and replacement level is 45. For a single game, replacement level isn’t much use, and I reiterate the caution about small samples producing weird results.

Now numbers.

POSS is the number of possessions each player was on the floor in this game.

PTS = points scored

ORTG = offensive rating, which is points produced per individual possessions x 100. League average last season was 112.3. Points produced is not the same as points scored. It includes the value of assists and offensive rebounds, as well as sharing credit when receiving an assist.

USG = offensive usage rate. Average is 20%.

ORTG and USG are slightly modified versions of stats created by Wizards assistant coach Dean Oliver and modified slightly by me. ORTG is an efficiency measure that accounts for the value of shooting, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. USG includes shooting from the floor and free throw line, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers.

Wizards: Key Stats

WIZARDS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
WIZARDS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
Spencer Dinwiddie 34 66 27 127 35.3% 290 33.2 6
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 35 67 18 144 16.4% 240 28.1 6
Deni Avdija 28 53 11 173 10.3% 221 20.4 18
Montrezl Harrell 24 46 15 132 27.8% 131 10.5 10
Daniel Gafford 24 46 6 109 14.3% 87 6.9 -5
Aaron Holiday 27 51 12 103 20.0% 67 5.9 -16
Anthony Gill 5 9 0 0.0% 0 0.0 5
Kyle Kuzma 31 59 8 87 15.9% -9 0.0 1
Raul Neto 23 44 8 83 18.8% -31 0.0 4
Corey Kispert 11 21 0 16 19.0% -121 0.0 -4

Pelicans: Key Stats

PELICANS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
PELICANS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
Brandon Ingram 32 62 31 117 39.9% 152 24.9 -2
Garrett Temple 19 36 8 267 6.3% 215 20.4 -5
Devonte' Graham 31 59 14 121 17.2% 92 14.5 3
Josh Hart 38 72 13 96 24.6% 66 12.6 0
Jonas Valanciunas 37 72 16 115 18.5% 66 12.5 -22
Trey Murphy III 9 16 3 301 4.6% 244 10.6 9
Jaxson Hayes 11 21 7 130 27.1% 84 4.6 17
Herbert Jones 19 37 4 148 6.5% -12 0.0 -11
Tomas Satoransky 17 33 0 49 7.8% -140 0.0 -6
Nickeil Alexander-Walker 28 55 4 58 19.0% -113 0.0 -8