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Listless Wizards stomped by the Tatum-led Boston Celtics

NBA: Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards
Boston Celtics forward poured in 51 points on a helpless Wizards defense.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The competitive portion of the Washington Wizards’ loss to the Boston Celtics came to a close when the Wizards allowed Boston to go on a 14-0 run to end the first half. In the second half, there were two questions that needed answering: just how many points would Jayson Tatum score, and what would the final margin be?

The answers:

  • The Wizards held Tatum to just 20 second half points, and Boston’s star scored 51 — a new career high. Tatum added 10 rebound, 7 assists and just 1 turnover en route to a 177 offensive rating (points produced per possession x 100) on 39.0% usage.
  • The final margin was 29.

As if a 29-point beatdown on “kids day” at the Capital One Arena, in the second half the crowd cheered like it was a home game for Boston. Fans cheered whenever Tatum hit a shot, and gave him an ovation when he checked back into the game to get points 50 and 51. A home audience sounding like a road game is now a #SoWizards tradition.

Let’s pause a moment to tip the cap to Tatum. While I don’t keep detailed game-by-game records, his 803 PPA (not a typo) is certainly I’ve seen this season, and among the highest I’ve calculated. I estimate that his performance was worth approximately 69 of Boston’s 116 points against the Wizards.

In a game like this, there’s plenty of responsibility to share. Bradley Beal, was okay but produced far less than any team should expect from a Franchise Player. His defensive effort was poor (again).

Beal’s backcourt running buddy, Spencer Dinwiddie, was a toxic train wreck. He was 1-12 from the floor, and a had a couple turnovers. The only thing that kept his PPA score from falling even deeper into negative territory was a relatively decent defensive outing — “relative” in this case comparing Dinwiddie to his teammates, not to the league.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope bricked shots and was ineffective defensively.

Kyle Kuzma managed just 12 points and 7 rebounds, and he had a pair of turnovers. His offensive rating was 86 (that’s bad) on a usage rate of 28.7%.

Starting center Daniel Gafford was terrible — 2 points and 1 rebound in 11 minutes — and his defense was awful.

Positives for the Wizards:

  • Rui Hachimura played well — 7 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 19 minutes. The team’s defense was actually good when he was in the game.
  • Thomas Bryant had 11 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assists, 2 steals and a block in 22 minutes.
  • Deni Avdija was pretty good — 13 points on 9 shots, 7 rebounds and an assist.

Last, there’s a question that needs to be asked. In an episode recorded before yesterday’s debacle against Boston, podcast cohost Ron Oakes-Cunningham and I batted around the issue of whether Wes Unseld Jr. and his staff are doing a good job. It’s been taken as a given by many Wizards fans and analysts that Unseld is good and a significant upgrade from Scott Brooks.

But what if he’s not?

What if the team isn’t being well coached? How could outsiders tell the difference? Could it be the team’s 13-21 record since the 10-3 start? Could it be the negative scoring differential? A middle of the pack offense and a bottom tier defense? How about the lack of energy and urgency from a team in the midst of playing every other day during a lengthy home stand?

I’ve long contended that coaching in the NBA is typically overrated. I suspect that Unseld is a lot like most NBA coaches — better at some things, worse at others. As a first-year head coach, he probably has to learn the job and how he’s going to do it. And, like every coach, he’s at the mercy of his players.

Think of Frank Vogel, who was twice fired before landing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and some decent role players whereupon he won a championship. Now with an ill-formed roster full of has-beens and never-weres — almost all of them NBA senior citizens, he’s reportedly being evaluated game by game to see if he’ll keep the job.

I’m not saying anything definitive about the coach right now. But it’s surely fair to ask questions and give the issue some thought.

Give a listen to the podcast, and let us know what you think.

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: Celtics 116 at Wizards 87

EFG 0.550 0.398
OREB 11 9
TOV 13 6
FTM 17 13
ORTG 119 89

Key Stats

Below are a few performance metrics, including the Player Production Average (PPA) Game Score (very similar to the one I used to call Scoreboard Impact Rating). PPA is my overall production metric, which credits players for things they do that help a team win (scoring, rebounding, playmaking, defending) and dings them for things that hurt (missed shots, turnovers, bad defense, fouls).

Game Score (GmSC) converts individual production into points on the scoreboard in this game. The scale is the same as points and reflects each player’s total contributions for the game. The lowest possible GmSC is zero.

PPA is a per possession metric designed for larger data sets. In small sample sizes, the numbers can get weird. But some readers prefer it, so I’m including PPA scores as well. Reminder: in PPA, 100 is average, higher is better and replacement level is 45. For a single game, replacement level isn’t much use, and I reiterate the caution about small samples producing weird results.

POSS is the number of possessions each player was on the floor in this game.

PTS = points scored

ORTG = offensive rating, which is points produced per individual possessions x 100. League average last season was 112.3. Points produced is not the same as points scored. It includes the value of assists and offensive rebounds, as well as sharing credit when receiving an assist.

USG = offensive usage rate. Average is 20%.

ORTG and USG are versions of stats created by Wizards assistant coach Dean Oliver and modified slightly by me. ORTG is an efficiency measure that accounts for the value of shooting, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. USG includes shooting from the floor and free throw line, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers.

Key Stats: Wizards

Bradley Beal 31 64 19 101 32.0% 143 20.0 -25
Deni Avdija 27 55 13 141 14.3% 144 17.3 -13
Rui Hachimura 19 40 7 105 15.6% 192 16.7 7
Thomas Bryant 22 45 11 112 21.0% 147 14.4 -1
Kyle Kuzma 24 49 12 86 28.7% 69 7.4 -29
Corey Kispert 24 49 3 71 6.5% 32 3.5 0
Raul Neto 6 13 0 58 8.3% 107 3.1 2
Daniel Gafford 11 22 2 186 3.7% 52 2.5 -11
Montrezl Harrell 7 15 3 121 13.9% 68 2.2 -12
Anthony Gill 2 5 0 0.0% 0 0.0 -6
Aaron Holiday 4 8 2 79 32.8% -55 0.0 -5
Davis Bertans 12 24 3 56 16.5% -98 0.0 -7
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 22 45 8 68 23.2% -64 0.0 -28
Spencer Dinwiddie 27 55 4 54 26.8% -77 0.0 -17

Key Stats: Celtics

Jayson Tatum 33 67 51 177 39.0% 803 68.9 31
Robert Williams III 31 63 8 148 11.1% 161 13.1 32
Marcus Smart 31 62 11 97 20.5% 155 12.4 36
Grant Williams 22 45 10 165 12.7% 191 11.0 6
Jaylen Brown 31 62 18 91 29.3% 39 3.1 12
Al Horford 35 70 7 90 11.4% 34 3.1 9
Romeo Langford 8 16 3 135 10.6% 115 2.4 1
Dennis Schroder 22 45 7 102 20.0% 28 1.6 12
Enes Freedom 3 7 0 0.0% 46 0.4 -1
Aaron Nesmith 4 8 1 45 29.0% -253 0.0 2
Josh Richardson 17 34 0 26 7.2% -66 0.0 3
Payton Pritchard 4 8 0 23 33.5% -561 0.0 2