In beating the Orlando Magic by 19 points last night, did the Washington Wizards play well or simply less poorly than a weak opponent made even weaker by injury and suspension?
The Magic entered the contest with just eight players available. Here’s who was missing due to suspension or injury: Wendell Carter Jr., Mo Bamba, R.J. Hampton, Cole Anthony, Gary Harris, Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Isaac, Moritz Wagner and Chuma Okeke. That’s two starters and several rotation players for a rebuilding team already lacking talent.
The Wizards, who were missing Bradley Beal and Taj Gibson, bludgeoned Orlando for three quarters, running up a lead of as much as 30 before getting sloppy in the final period and letting the Magic winnow the final margin to 19.
For the franchise’s stated goals, any win is a good one. They did as they should and beat up on weaker team. To answer my own question, the Wizards performance fell much closer to the played less poorly category than to played well. In addition to missing a huge chunk of their roster, guys like Bol Bol, Paolo Banchero and notorious Wizards killer Terrence Ross played terrible. It was enough for Washington to coast to a victory against a bad team’s backups and reserves. For a night, their own sloppiness could be overwhelmed by a significant different in available talent.
If you want to argue the point, keep in mind that Orlando gave 27+ minutes of NBA playing time to each of Kevon Harris, Caleb Houstan and Admiral Schofield. Remember that Schofield wasn’t good enough to earn minutes on the 2019-20 Washington Wizards, which finished 25-47. And note that Schofield is the best of those three.
- Kristaps Porzingis dominated the decimated Magic with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
- Monte Morris made shots (4-5 from the floor) and had 10 assists to just 2 turnovers.
- Deni Avdija was good — 13 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists. He made a pair of threes, as well.
- The Porzingis/Gafford pairing up front was effective again. The team entered last night’s game with a +23 net rating in 102 minutes with the two on the floor together over the past two seasons.
- Washington shot well as a team — an effective field goal percentage of 66.0%, including 15-35 from three.
Not So Good Stuff
- The Wizards were fortunate to face such a weak opponent because it made Kyle Kuzma’s 8 turnovers something they could tolerate. He also led the team with 16 field goal attempts. Only Porzingis and Rui Hachimura had more shot attempts than Kuzma had turnovers.
- While Kuzma’s turnovers were a problem, he was far from the only one. Washington had a season-high 26 turnovers, including 5 from Porzingis, and 3 each from Avdija and Rui Hachimura.
- Hachimura had his first bad game since coming back from the bone bruise. The headline looks fine — 16 points, 7 rebounds — but it came on 6-14 shooting, just 1-5 from three-point range, and 3 turnovers to 1 assist. His offensive rating (points produced per possession x 100) was 84 on a 24.9% usage rate. That was the worst mark on the team for all but the garbage time crew.
- While the Magic were limited to eight available players, it’s unclear why Wes Unseld Jr. opted to play an 8-man rotation of his own until garbage time. While leaving Anthony Gill and Will Barton on the bench was no problem, he did have Jordan Goodwin available. Instead of working Goodwin — who earned minutes by playing well over 20+ games — into a rotation without Beal or Barton, Unseld burned one of Goodwin’s two-way contract games on two-and-a-half minutes of mop up duty.
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 often find the raw numbers more useful when analyzing a single game.
Four Factors: Wizards at Magic
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
Stats & Metrics: Magic