Losing to the Phoenix Suns, which entered the game with a record of 22-5 and has the league’s third best strength of schedule adjusted scoring margin, is no shame. It was expected. But the Suns clowned the Wizards, rolled to a 26-point lead in the second half, and went on to win by 20.
Pantheon point guard Chris Paul was in mess-around mode from the opening tip, probably because he knew he could get serious at any point if threatened, and the Suns would win. He committed 3 turnovers in just 48 possessions — almost triple his normal rate — by teasing Wizards defenders and throwing lobs and tight-window passes. It had all the feel of him just trying stuff that might show up on highlight packages in the future.
And even with the messing around, Paul dominated with 12 points (on 8 field goal attempts), 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals in just 24 minutes. Phoenix was +14 when he was out there.
Old friend JaVale McGee — who will forever go down as the answer to the trivia question: Which individual lays title to “most robbed” in the NBA dunk contest? — wrecked the Wizards with 17 points (on 8 shots), 8 rebounds and a couple nice assists. The Suns were +17 in his 16 minutes.
For the Wizards, Bradley Beal was pretty good — 26 points on 11-18 field goal attempts and 5 assists looks nice, but he also committed 5 turnovers, which dragged his offensive rating (individual points produced per individual possessions used x 100) down to a pedestrian 108.
Montrezl Harrell was pretty good too — 12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists. He looked weary throughout the game. Not just tired but gassed. That’s somewhat expected given that the team was on a back-to-back. He could use a day off.
Deni Avdija had good stats, though I’d tap the brakes on saying he played well. He scored 9 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, well after the outcome was decided. While it’s good to see him assert himself on the offensive end, the Wizards need that kind of production outside of garbage time.
After starting the season 10-3, the Wizards are now 15-15 with a series of tough matchups looming through the end of the year. The next time my prediction machine has them as better than a coin flip favorite is January 5 against the Houston Rockets — 8 games away. It’s improbable they’ll lose all 8, but not impossible.
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.
Four Factors: Wizards 98 at Suns 118
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.
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.
Key Stats: Wizards
Key Stats: Suns