The Washington Wizards ran their winning streak to five with a 127-124 overtime victory against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. The string of victories is currently the NBA’s second longest (the Brooklyn Nets have won six in a row).
This was the gritty kind of win the Wizards franchise has long struggled to achieve. No one had a particularly outstanding game for Washington, but Bradley Beal scored, Russell Westbrook did some of everything, and they got timely contributions from Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, Raul Neto, Garrison Mathews, Robin Lopez, and Davis Bertans.
Both Lopez and Bertans had mostly forgettable nights. Both made important plays late that helped get the Wizards the win.
A few observations:
- Westbrook is healthy. He played through a quad injury earlier in the season, but that’s gone at this point. Last night, he was quick, explosive, and powerful going to the basket. His playmaking was sharp, and he committed just 2 turnovers.
- Beal is as resourceful and clever a scorer as anyone who’s worn a Wizards uniform. Yes, I’m putting him at the same level offensively as peak Gilbert Arenas, who for three seasons was an elite offensive weapon.
- Head coach Scott Brooks, and by extension the coaching staff, has drawn considerable criticism this season, so it’s only fair that he (they) get some credit — especially for their defensive game plan for James and the Lakers. It took the all-time great 29 shots to score 31 points, and the Wizards forced him into 8 turnovers with funky double-teams, traps, and stunts. If you have a chance to do some re-watching, check out how many times James started and stopped drives, and how often he seemed to dribble in circles. That’s him trying to figure out the coverage scheme, and the Wizards did a good job of making things difficult for him.
- One oddity that I’d examine if I was writing about the Lakers regularly: Los Angeles seemed to set most of their ball screens to James’s left hand. What makes this is an oddity is that he has a more complete game going right. Meaning: he’ll attack and get to the rim or get to pullups, stepbacks, and fades. Going left, he’s far less likely to drive.
- Another oddity: Montrezl Harrell had his way inside against Lopez, but he sat with 5 fouls and never returned. While Lopez is stronger and bigger, Harrell’s quickness gave him fits. I was surprised that Lakers coach Frank Vogel didn’t come back to him in the fourth quarter or overtime.
- During the third quarter, it felt like James was toying with Wizards defenders. He repeatedly backed into the post and shot fadeaways, or attempted difficult passes that resulted in turnovers. It was almost like he was practicing those shots for future games. He shot 2-6 and committed 3 turnovers in the quarter as the Wizards made their comeback.
- Avdija had his best game in weeks, especially in the fourth quarter when he had 8 points on 3 shots, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal.
- Beal had a rough fourth quarter — 0-5 from the floor with 3 turnovers, but he bounced back in overtime with 3-3 shooting.
- The Lakers shot slightly better and had more offensive rebounds, but the Wizards won by committing fewer turnovers and getting to the free throw line. Washington successfully defended James without fouling — he was just 1-3 from the free throw line last night.
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. The pace factor of this game was 107. Because of overtime, there were actually 119 possessions per team.
Four Factors: Wizards at Lakers
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 and role. In PPA, 100 is average and higher is better.
PPA is a per possession stat. The table below is sorted by each player’s total contributions for the game.
POSS is the number of possessions each player was on the floor in this game.