The Wizards suffered their first loss of the season because they couldn’t corral defensive rebounds, couldn’t take care of the ball and couldn’t stop sending the Cleveland Cavaliers to the free throw line.
Washington shot much better from the floor but lost in overtime because Cleveland was stronger and tougher. In short, the Cavs outworked the Wizards to earn the win.
To win games like this, the Wizards need more from the group getting pushed as The New Big Three — Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma. Beal was decent, and he did shoot 11-16 from the field and give a solid defensive effort, but he managed just four rebounds in 42 minutes and committed six turnovers. His overall offensive efficiency wasn’t as high as would normally be expected for a guy with a 68.8% effective field goal percentage. The issue: 6 turnovers and no threes.
Porzingis had his unicorn moments but also disappeared for long stretches and got pushed around inside by his Cavs counterpart, Jarrett Allen. He’s wanted a steady diet of post-ups since he entered the league, despite generally poor efficiency on those plays throughout most of his career. Wes Unseld Jr. and the Wizards seem willing to give Porzingis post opportunities, but there’s a problem — Porzingis has had significant trouble establishing position and receiving entry passes. If the Wizards want to feed him on the block, they may need to get more creative in getting him to his spot.
Kuzma seemed nearly invisible much of the night. He finished with 11 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 37 minutes. His efficiency was good (124 offensive rating — points produced per possession x 100), but his possession usage was low — just 12.4%.
Will Barton played 35 minutes and tied the game late in the fourth quarter by poking the ball loose from Mitchell and going the length of the court for a layup. His overall game was rough, however — an inefficient 9 points (4-11 shooting plus 5 turnovers) and not much else. While the team defense was better when he was out there, the team offense was worse.
On the bright side, the Wizards got good production from their point guards. Monte Morris and Delon Wright split minutes evenly and combined produce a hyper-efficient 20 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals and just 2 turnovers. Through three games, it’s apparent that Morris has better feel for the game and is more effective on offense while Wright is the bigger and better defender.
Rui Hachimura made some shots and got some easy buckets, which made this by far his best game of the season. As has been his career-long habit, he disappeared when it was time for non-scoring chores like rebounding or defending.
Deni Avdija drew the matchup with Donovan Mitchell, who is the definition of a tough cover. I liked that the Wizards chose to keep Avdija on Mitchell by not switching on screens. Cleveland bigs helped some in that area by slipping virtually every screen early. It didn’t help much — Avdija got into early foul trouble and sat for most of the game. When he did play, the Cavs were content to let him shoot. He finished 1-6 from the floor, including 0-3 from three-point range.
The Four Factors
Below are the four factors that decide wins and losses 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: Wizards 107 at Cavaliers 117
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. 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 112.0. 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
Key Stats: Cavaliers