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Wizards eke out win against decimated Heat

Washington survives Miami team featuring 5 undrafted free agents

Miami Heat v Washington Wizards
Wizards wing Corey Kispert after hitting a three.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

At the most surface level, the Wizards should be feeling okay. They’ve won five of their last six, and it took a heroic effort from one of the game’s best players to suffer their one loss. And, they just beat the Miami Heat.

Scratch a little and...well...let’s just say Wes Unseld Jr. and the team’s brain trust ought to be worried. Last night’s win should come with flashing warning lights and buzzers and klaxons.

Unseld was placid in the postgame press conference. Hopefully that was for public consumption.

According to reporting from Wayne Cole, Bradley Beal said Unseld had lit the team up at halftime. He should do it again in tomorrow’s video session and then in practice. He should do it at least once more in team president Tommy Sheppard’s office, and maybe even to team owner Ted Leonsis. They’re the ones who gave him this roster.

Why worry? The Heat were missing Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro — their three best players. They were also missing Dewayne Dedmon, Adebayo’s backup, as well as Duncan Robinson, who backs up Herro, and Gabe Vincent, a decent reserve PG.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was left with seven healthy players, including undrafted free agents like Haywood Highsmith from college basketball juggernaut Wheeling Jesuit, Jamal Cain, and Orlando Robinson. The google machine assures me that Orlando Robinson is not related to Duncan Robinson.

Miami’s starting center was Nikola Jovic, a rookie forward with 48 minutes on the odometer entering the game. The 6-5 Highsmith was the PF.

Of the seven players the Heat had available, five were undrafted free agents. Here’s breakdown:

  • Kyle Lowry — 24th pick
  • Nikola Jovic — 27th pick
  • Max Strus — UFA
  • Haywood Highsmith — UFA
  • Orlando Robinson — UFA
  • Caleb Martin — UFA
  • Jamal Cain — UFA

And the Wizards survived with an overtime win because Strus couldn’t get an open three to fall at the buzzer. Yeesh.

Positives for the Wizards: Corey Kispert and Rui Hachimura were good.

This was the best game of Kispert’s career — 17 points on 9 field goal attempts, plus 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. In a game where the Wizards offensive rating was an anemic 98, Kispert’s was 187. His effective field goal percentage was 94.4%.

Hachimura scored 13 points and had 3 assists for an efficient offensive night. He also had 8 rebounds and a steal.

Not bads for the Wizards: Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Taj Gibson.

In his second game back from illness and reconditioning, Beal was okay. He scored 27 points on 18 field goal attempts, including 5-9 from three point range, and he produced 8 assists. He also bumbled his way to 7 turnovers.

Porzingis scored 20 points and had 5 assists but was just 7-20 from the floor and 1-6 from three-point range. His defense was solid (1 steal, 2 blocks), and he grabbed 17 rebounds, one shy of his career high.

Gibson came off the bench to take backup center minutes from Daniel Gafford. He had 8 rebounds, an assist, a steal and 2 blocks in 16 minutes.

Negatives for the Wizards: Monte Morris’ shooting, Deni Avdija’s finger, Kyle Kuzma when it’s not a last-second shot, Gafford and Will Barton.

Most of what Morris does on the floor is entirely predictable and expected based on previous career performance. Last night, he was 0-5 from three-point range, which lowers his accuracy rate to 32.6%. That’s a career low for him, which is also the case for his shooting on twos and free throws. Morris is a caretaker guard who’s supposed to be a cautious but effective secondary playmaker who keeps the team organized, makes shots and avoids turnovers. That’s what he’s doing, except for making shots.

Avdija dislocated a pinky finger (which hurts about as much as it sounds), but apparently was available to return after a trainer popped it back in (which hurts about as much as it sounds).

There was once again considerable noise on Twitter and in my text messages about the allegedly wondrous Kuzma. His glory stats look fine — 21 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists — and he hit the last second three to send the game to overtime. Look a tiny bit deeper, and his performance was awful — 9-24 from the field, 2-12 from three, 1-3 from the free throw line, and 4 turnovers. On 31.1% usage, he had an offensive rating of just 73 — 39 points per 100 possessions below league average and 25 points per 100 below the Wizards’ ortg for the game.

Gafford and Barton were basically unplayable. Gafford did nothing except commit a pair of fouls. Washington was a stunning -9 in his 5 minutes on the court. Barton missed a pair of shots and collected a rebound, but the team was -11 in his 8 minutes.

It’s better for the Wizards that they escaped with a victory. But someone in a leadership position should be hitting the panic button.

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, I find the raw numbers more useful when analyzing a single game.

Four Factors: Heat 106 at Wizards 107

EFG 0.413 0.505
OREB 9 8
TOV 9 15
FTM 25 10
ORTG 97 98

Stats & Metrics

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.

Stats & Metrics: Wizards

Corey Kispert 38 79 17 187 10.6% 312 43.7 8
Bradley Beal 49 100 27 102 25.7% 121 21.3 10
Rui Hachimura 28 58 13 112 18.5% 157 16.2 -2
Kristaps Porzingis 39 81 20 93 27.1% 95 13.6 -2
Taj Gibson 16 33 0 66 11.1% 119 7.0 12
Monte Morris 26 54 6 98 14.1% 54 5.2 1
Deni Avdija 14 30 3 118 11.6% -1 0.0 -3
Kyle Kuzma 40 83 21 73 31.1% -9 0.0 1
Daniel Gafford 5 9 0 0.0% -91 0.0 -9
Will Barton 8 17 0 0 9.3% -83 0.0 -11

Stats & Metrics; Heat

Kyle Lowry 51 105 24 103 26.8% 135 35.7 4
Nikola Jovic 30 62 18 133 20.8% 118 18.6 6
Haywood Highsmith 42 86 12 75 19.2% 60 13.2 -2
Orlando Robinson 32 66 14 111 15.9% 78 13.0 -2
Caleb Martin 47 97 12 82 15.9% 42 10.2 1
Jamal Cain 18 36 4 121 10.9% 94 8.6 -5
Max Strus 45 93 22 86 23.3% 28 6.7 -7