The Wizards followed a depressingly familiar script in their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks — built a large deficit, mounted a comeback when the opponent started slacking off, and then ran out of steam as the opponent got serious enough to concentrate and seal the win.
This is The Loser’s Try in the NBA. The team takes away the Moral Victory of rallying and making things close in the second half. Fans get to talk about the need for consistency. Everyone gets to play “if only...” — as in, if only the Wizards could be more consistent and so on.
But, playing “high level” basketball when trailing by 26 and the other team is coasting isn’t an issue of consistency, and it isn’t a sign of a good team struggling but getting closer to realizing its potential. It’s the sign of a mediocre-to-bad team that has enough good players to get it together sometimes but isn’t competitive against actual good teams.
Last night, the Wizards got a terrific game from Bradley Beal, and productive performances from Russell Westbrook and Rui Hachimura, and they got whooped by a quality Bucks squad.
The last two games against the Milwaukee Bucks have been illustrative of how far the Wizards go. Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown the difference between elite (what he is) and very good (what Beal is).
The Bucks’ biggest flaw this season is basically everyone on the roster after the starting five. The Wizards are still searching for a workable starting group and continue to have little idea what they’ll get from the bench game to game.
Scott Brooks caught criticism for benching Moritz Wagner and starting Alex Len. The reality: none of the options for a starting center are good. Len topped out about average a couple years ago. Wagner has some skills, but makes too many mistakes and isn’t strong enough to hold his own inside. Robin Lopez is glacial in his movements.
Fans grumbled online and in my text messages about the team’s offense running so many “isos” for Westbrook and Beal. Meanwhile, the team ran plays to get Davis Bertans open shots (there was one gem in the second half that got Bertans a wide three from the corner), got 18 shots for Rui Hachimura (Beal and Westbrook had 19 each), and 9 shots for Deni Avdija.
Hachimura could easily have added another 5-6 shots — and likely made several trips to the free throw line — if he attacked when he had the advantage instead of pulling back and giving the ball to Beal or Westbrook.
Avdija bypassed several open driving opportunities that would have required the use of his left hand.
If this sounds harsh...well...it is. It’s also the reality of playing in the NBA. Hachimura won’t achieve his potential unless he can develop a mindset of attacking the defense. Fans (incorrectly) called his performance against the Bucks two games ago the best of his career. That’s basically an average night for Antetokounmpo. That’s not to criticize Hachimura, but to underscore what it means to be elite in the NBA.
Many envision Avdija as a playmaking forward. And he does have at least some of the skills. But he won’t be a point forward in the NBA if he can’t go left. And he needs to shoot better and begin actually making plays rather than picking up his dribble and giving the ball back to Beal or Westbrook.
Now losers of four straight since the All-Star break, the Wizards have a chance to “get well” against the moribund Sacramento Kings. I estimate Washington with a 57% chance of winning.
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: Bucks at Wizards
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.