The final margin was a deceptively close 13 points, but the outcome was never in doubt during the second half, and the Wizards cruised to a 154-141 win over the Indiana Pacers.
The victory pulled the Wizards to within a half game of the Pacers for 9th in the East, which would give Washington homecourt advantage in the league’s play-in tournament. They’re within striking range for 8th, as well.
The story of the game was Russell Westbrook, who dominated the game start to finish while taking just 8 shots from the floor. He finished the game with yet another triple-double — 14 points, 21 rebounds (a new career high) and 24 assists (tying the franchise record).
These kinds of performances are rare for Wizards fans. This is what the production of an MVP candidate looks like. If Westbrook was able to play like this all season, the team would have many more wins, and yes, he’d be a realistic candidate for NBA Most Valuable Player.
What seems to coalescing for the Wizards over the past month is something that should scare daylights out of potential playoffs matchups. In Westbrook they have someone producing at an All-NBA level, and in Bradley Beal a quality “second star” playing like an All-Star.
After those two they have an array of competent to semi-competent role players and specialists like Davis Bertans, Raul Neto, Ish Smith, Rui Hachimura, and the three-headed center rotation of Alex Len, Robin Lopez and Daniel Gafford.
The Wizards still have significant roster issues. But two stars — one of whom who’s playing at an elite level — plus role players is probably enough to get them through the play-in tournament and into an interesting first round matchup.
Tonight, the Wizards kicked a depleted Pacers squad despite a subpar game from Beal because of Westbrook’s remarkable game and high-quality contributions from the rest of the team.
- Hachimura — 27 points, 7 rebounds; 12-19 from the floor
- Chandler Hutchison — 13 points on 7 shots
- Ish Smith — 13 points on 8 shots
- Gafford — 15 points on 7 shots, plus 3 blocks in just 15 minutes
One other note: this game was played at a preposterously fast pace — akin to the 1960s NBA. The Pacers had 107 field goal attempts; the Wizards had 103. The teams had 119 possessions, which is downright gonzo. Keep this pace in mind when I write about running Westbrook through my Era Translator machine.
If you’re a truly dedicated Wizards fan, and you need to worry, fret about the team’s defense, which was bad again. They’ve been better on defense than offense this season, and their defensive performance improved during the winning binge. Backsliding this late in the season would not be a welcome development.
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.
Pacers 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.
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.