The Washington Wizards led by as much as one point with under 47 minutes to play, but they couldn’t hold their advantage and lost to the Denver Nuggets, 127-109. Along the way, the Wizards kept things competitive, trailing by no more than 28 points in the third quarter.
The game was replete with positives and moral victories, such as:
- Holding Nikola Jokic to just 29 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals and a block in 26 minutes. Jokic seemed too frightened to take the floor in the fourth quarter as Washington cut the Nuggets lead from 28 to 18.
- Wizards defenders forced Denver rookie Bones Hyland to take 10 shots to score 17 points. Washington’s Rui Hachimura was so committed to defending that he tried to bite Hyland in the fourth quarter.
- Career replacement level guard Austin Rivers barely cracked a 200 PPA last night.
The biggest positive was the performance of Deni Avdija, who shot 7-10 from the floor en route to a hyper-efficient 19 points in 28 minutes. Avdija had a pair of left-handed finishes in the lane, hit 5-6 from the free throw line, and had a jazzy behind the back dribble drive that ended with a lefty layup. (Wait, that was one was serious.)
In all seriousness, the Wizards were hopelessly overmatched. They don’t have sufficient talent, and it would be a challenge to see a difference between what Wes Unseld Jr. and his coaching staff are doing and mailing it in.
All three centers made egregious defensive plays. Kristaps Porzingis gave up the second slowest dribble drive you’ll ever see to Jokic. That’s kinda okay — Jokic does that to everyone. He may actually have the power to control time. A little later, he gave up the slowest dribble drive you’ll ever see — this time to DeMarcus Cousins, who’s back on the court after missing the past several seasons with a torn Achilles, a torn ACL, and a torn quad.
Daniel Gafford couldn’t keep up with Jokic, who got him to literally spin the wrong direction before committing a foul. Tasked with defending Jokic, Gafford turned in two fouls in two minutes.
And, Thomas Bryant — off the bench because of Gafford’s fouling — let Jokic cut across his face for a layup. How bad was it? Think backdoor cut in front of the defender.
On the #SoWizards list for the night:
- Four impossibly bad defensive plays from the three centers.
- Hachimura going 0-5 from three-point range and still finishing as the team’s third most productive player.
- The Wizards allowed 145 points per 100 possessions when Porzingis was on the floor, the worst mark on the team. Second worst: 135 with Kyle Kuzma, followed by 134 with Avdija, 134 with Ish Smith, and 132 with Hachimura. The team’s dedication to not defending is breathtaking.
Washington, currently on a five-game losing streak, are nearing the end of a six-game stretch where my prediction machine had them as underdogs. They’ll be underdogs again Friday night against the New York Knicks. Saturday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers is a pick ‘em at this point. The next time they’re a solid favorite: March 21 against the Houston Rockets.
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: Nuggets 127 at Wizards 109
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
Key Stats: Nuggets