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Vintage Westbrook fuels Wizards win against Pacers

Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards
Washington guard Russell Westbrook had a vintage performance with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 21 assists in the Wizards win against the Indiana Pacers.
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

The Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 132-124 with Bradley Beal sidelined with a hip injury because Russell Westbrook erupted with a vintage 35 points, 14 rebounds, 21 assists masterpiece.

Westbrook, long renowned for preposterous volume of both the good and bad, wrecked the Pacers with 35 points on 26 shots. Indiana was willing to concede threes to Westbrook, and he was happy for the opportunity, hitting four of six.

According to my Player Production Average metric (see below), this was Westbrook’s second best game of the season behind the 41 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists hurting he put on the Brooklyn Nets earlier this season. Total production was similar, but Westbrook played just 35 minutes in that game — he played 39 last night.

The Official Narrative™ was that Westbrook’s performance was helped by a terrific performance from Rui Hachimura. My analysis says different, however. Hachimura’s headline stats look good — 26 points and 8 rebounds — but a deeper look reveals some holes. Like, his 12-24 shooting with no made threes was below average for the Wizards (they had a .606 efg for the night), below the shooting efficiency of the Pacers, and below league average. In the 2020-21 league environment, 26 points on 24 shots isn’t outstanding, it’s a bit less than average.

His 8 rebounds (none on the offensive end) are almost precisely league average for someone playing 85 possessions. On average, the league produces about 4 assists in 85 possessions. Hachimura had 3. He also had zero blocks or steals, and he committed 3 turnovers. Taken as a whole, his performance rates below average for the game.

Contrast with Deni Avdija, who produced 12 points on 6 field goals attempts, and grabbed 8 rebounds in 12 fewer possessions than Hachimura. He also had no turnovers.

Or compare to Chandler Hutchinson, who made his Wizards debut with 18 points on 11 field goal attempts. Hutchinson also committed 3 turnovers and 2 fouls, but the .818 efg and offensive volume was valuable.

Or contrast with Daniel Gafford, who scored 11 points on 6 field goal attempts, and had 6 rebounds (4 offensive) and 2 blocks in just 15 minutes before turning his ankle.

The point is not to trash Hachimura’s game. Those points and rebounds have value. Rather, it’s an illustration of how players contribute to wins and losses, and how the surface narrative often misses the point because it fails to account for how a player produces the stats that draw glory.

To totally change subject, it’s time (again) for the Jerome Robinson experiment to end. He’s not an NBA-level player. That’s not an insult — the NBA is the best and most competitive basketball league on the planet. But Scott Brooks is doing him no favors by putting him out there to fail repeatedly. Those minutes should go to someone else — perhaps someone who has a chance of being a contributing player for the Wizards (or another team) in the future.

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: Pacers at Wizards

EFG 0.538 0.606
OREB 7 12
TOV 14 18
FTM 24 12
PACE 112
ORTG 111 118

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

Russell Westbrook 39 92 315 7
Deni Avdija 32 73 133 11
Chandler Hutchinson 25 58 133 12
Daniel Gafford 15 35 219 0
Raul Neto 19 45 154 -2
Rui Hachimura 36 85 65 2
Alex Len 22 51 50 13
Robin Lopez 11 25 20 -5
Garrison Mathews 20 47 -8 7
Jerome Robinson 21 48 -100 -5

Pacers PPA

Malcolm Brogdon 33 77 222 -5
Domantas Sabonis 37 87 182 -6
T.J. McConnell 22 51 189 0
Myles Turner 36 83 77 1
Goga Bitadze 7 16 218 -4
Aaron Holiday 8 18 185 -5
Edmond Sumner 19 45 41 0
Jeremy Lamb 15 36 41 -5
Justin Holiday 31 73 13 -10
Caris LeVert 32 74 -44 -6