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Tighter rotation, defensive tweaks help Wizards beat Bulls

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NBA: Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls
Washington Wizards center Alex Len dunks on the Chicago Bulls.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards rode an excellent all-around game from Bradley Beal and a good game from Alex Len to beat the depleted Chicago Bulls and push their record to 6-15.

Beal didn’t shoot the ball well but played an attacking game that got him frequent trips to the free throw line (14-15) and drew defensive attention. A night after producing zero assists, Beal had 7 in Chicago, and could have had several more — NBA tracking data credits him with 12 potential assists last night.

Alex Len made all five of his field goal attempts and collected 7 rebounds in 21 minutes. He was active defensively and challenged Zach LaVine’s potentially game-tying layup in the final seconds. His 2 turnovers and 5 fouls weren’t enough to offset a good performance from the scrap heap pickup.

The rest of the roster performed some mix of okay to poor. Rui Hachimura had 19 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes, and he shot the ball decently. His PPA score (see table below) was lower than what I might have expected because of zeros in assists, steals, and blocks.

Ish Smith shot poorly and committed a pair of turnovers, but contributed 7 assists and 6 rebounds.

Davis Bertans, inserted into the starting lineup as Scott Brooks is looking to kickstart his production, hit 4-11 from three-point range — subpar for his career standard but decent — and played some defense. In 38 minutes, the 6-10 forward managed just 3 rebounds and no assists.

Deni Avdija, who moved to a bench role so Bertans could start, was more aggressive than he had been, but had a rough outing — 2-9 shooting, 0-5 from three, 0-2 from the free throw line. The rookie grabbed 10 rebounds (tied with Hachimura for the team lead in 8 fewer minutes than Hachimura played) and had 3 steals. He also played some tough defense on LaVine. The Bulls guard shot just 3-10 when Avdija defended.

For once, the Wizards were helped by the injury report. Chicago was missing Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter, and Wendell Carter Jr., who are each among their more productive players.

And, for once the Wizards defense didn’t allow career nights for role players and scrubs. Outside of LaVine, the Bulls struggled to generate offense.

In addition to changing the starting lineup, Brooks tightened the rotation and tweaked the defensive scheme. He used just 9 players last night with the bulk of the minutes divided between 7. On defense, perimeter defenders stayed home on their man rather than helping in the paint, and there was less switching.

The result of these changes was a less frenetic and more effective defense — at least against a middling offensive team missing three key players. Still, it could be something for the team to build on.

One entertaining matchup last night was Beal torturing former teammate Garrett Temple. The rest of the Wizards roster was 0-6 from the floor with a pair of turnovers when Temple was defending. Beal was 2-4 from the floor and drew two shooting fouls for 5 free throw attempts (he made 4).

Also, while the Wizards won without Russell Westbrook in the lineup, I don’t think they won because Westbrook was out. The team will need Westbrook playing more like he did last season if they hope to make a run for 10th and entry into the playin games.

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.

Four Factors: Wizards at Bulls

FOUR FACTORS BULLS WIZARDS
FOUR FACTORS BULLS WIZARDS
EFG 0.476 0.459
OREB 10 10
TOV 16 14
FTM 20 27
PACE 102 102
ORTG 99 103

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.

Wizards PPA

WIZARDS MIN POSS PPA +/-
WIZARDS MIN POSS PPA +/-
Bradley Beal 35 74 229 -5
Alex Len 21 44 144 -8
Rui Hachimura 36 77 77 -2
Ish Smith 31 66 82 13
Davis Bertans 38 80 65 -1
Raul Neto 17 36 125 -9
Garrison Mathews 6 14 146 5
Robin Lopez 27 58 -33 12
Deni Avdija 28 60 -46 15

Bulls PPA

BULLS MIN POSS PPA +/-
BULLS MIN POSS PPA +/-
Daniel Gafford 15 32 303 -2
Thaddeus Young 28 59 189 -1
Zach LaVine 38 80 130 -7
Tomas Satoransky 23 50 161 -4
Coby White 30 64 22 1
Patrick Williams 35 75 9 6
Cristiano Felicio 9 20 0 -4
Ryan Arcidiacono 6 13 -183 -8
Denzel Valentine 28 59 -45 -4
Garrett Temple 28 59 -76 3