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Wizards lose to tanking Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets v Washington Wizards
Wizards G/F Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

When I wrote in my last PPA update that the Wizards would probably lose one of their upcoming “should win” games, I wasn’t thinking about the Houston Rockets.

Including homecourt advantage, the Wizards should have been 9-10 points per 100 possessions better than the Rockets. Yet somehow, they managed to lose on a buzzer-beating three by Kevin Porter Jr., who had a terrible game in a terrible season.

I mean, among the NBA’s 136 guards with at least 300 minutes this season, Porter ranked 123rd in per possession production entering tonight’s game. He’s fresh off a one-game suspension for trying to attack Houston assistant coach John Lucas. And he hit the game winner because Raul Neto and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope switched on a phantom screen, and Neto was too small to contest the shot.

I mean, Houston entered the game ranked 26th in offense and 29th in defense. Their franchise strategy this season is to lose as many games as possible to get a high pick to go with 2021 first round pick, Jalen Green.

And the Wizards still managed to lose.

In Washington’s defense (and I write that almost seriously), they came into the game 18th in offense and 23rd in defense, so it’s not like they’re some kind of power. Still, Houston is a bad team that’s been playing badly.

And here’s the thing: the Rockets didn’t even play all that well. On offense, they were right at their season average efficiency. In other words, the Wizards’ defense was about average. Washington’s problem: they couldn’t generate efficient offense against the NBA’s second worst defense.

The Wizards gacked away a “should win” in classic #SoWizards fashion because everyone except Caldwell-Pope and Neto crapped the bed on the same night.

Bradley Beal managed an offensive rating of 100 (points produced per possession x 100) with an astronomical usage rate of 41.1%. And he fouled out. Quibble with that last call if you want, it doesn’t change the fact that Beal had a bad game.

Daniel Gafford couldn’t stay with Christian Wood, committed four fouls in 20 minutes and was kept on the bench by Wes Unseld Jr. in the closing minutes.

Kyle Kuzma scored 24 points, but it took him 20 field goal attempts and four turnovers to do it.

What else? Corey Kispert was terrible. Davis Bertans missed a couple shots and committed a couple turnovers before getting hurt and missing the rest of the game.

Deni Avdija was awful — 2-12 from the floor, 1-7 from three-point range. He’s a wonderful defender who will probably get even better at that end as he gains experience, but his shot needs a floor-up rebuild.

There’s often no connection from his legs to his arms, which robs him of the power to get the ball to the basket and of the stability needed for consistent accuracy. This is likely related to the fact that he does not use the dip taught by shot gurus, and which has been demonstrated in academic research to yield better results.

The theoretical advantage of a quicker release is made nonsensical by the resultant inaccuracy. If he’s going to be more than a defensive specialist, he needs to spend the upcoming offseason retooling his shot and working on that left hand.

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: Rockets 114 at Wizards 111

EFG 0.524 0.495
OREB 10 9
TOV 20 15
FTM 25 21
PACE 107
ORTG 107 104

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

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 40 89 26 152 16.3% 262 57.3 -5
Raul Neto 32 71 14 161 13.0% 138 24.1 5
Bradley Beal 30 66 27 100 41.1% 61 9.8 1
Daniel Gafford 20 44 5 121 11.7% 80 8.5 -13
Kyle Kuzma 44 98 24 94 25.2% 26 6.2 -6
Corey Kispert 32 70 7 95 12.1% 29 5.0 9
Davis Bertans 9 20 0 16 19.6% -22 0.0 7
Craig Sword 2 4 0 0.0% -420 0.0 -2
Deni Avdija 33 74 8 70 17.6% -50 0.0 -11

Key Stats: Rockets

Christian Wood 34 75 22 150 19.2% 215 38.3 7
Eric Gordon 32 72 19 145 16.9% 184 31.3 16
Jalen Green 34 75 22 120 21.2% 108 19.3 10
Josh Christopher 14 32 8 147 16.4% 199 14.8 -4
David Nwaba 11 23 5 102 22.1% 121 6.7 -9
Kevin Porter Jr. 35 79 9 73 22.0% 19 3.6 3
Kenyon Martin Jr. 22 49 11 109 21.7% -11 0.0 -7
Jae'Sean Tate 32 72 13 89 21.5% -45 0.0 7
Garrison Mathews 26 58 5 53 14.8% -123 0.0 -8