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Wizards blow 23-point lead and lose by 18 to NBA worst Houston Rockets

And somehow, that headline undersells how bad this loss was for the Wizards.

Washington Wizards v Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets center Christian Wood torched the Washington Wizards.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

This is not how the NBA typically works. Even when a couple bottom feeders get together for a late-season contest, it’s absurd to even imagine one of the would cough a 23-point first half lead and end up losing by 18. That would be ridiculous. Preposterous. Nonsensical.

And yet.

The way things usually go in the NBA is that when the league’s worst team falls behind by 23 in the first half, they stop competing and start playing for numbers. Sure, sometimes they’ll rally a bit and lose by 15 instead of 30. But they still lose.

And yet.

Last night, the Wizards traveled to Houston to take on the NBA worst Rockets. “Worst” is not a matter of debate, by the way. Houston entered the game with the worst record and the worst scoring margin. Assembling a loser was the front office’s plan from the offseason.

Houston came into the night with the league’s 27th ranked offense and 30th ranked defense. They flat out stink. On purpose.

And yet, the Wizards sprinted out to a 23-point lead and then let the Rockets outscore them by 41 points the rest of the way.

Think of it: With 7:31 remaining in the third quarter, Kristaps Porzingis dunked to make the score 54-31. A bit of math shows the Wizards were up by 23 at that point. Over the remaining 31:31 of the game, the LEAGUE WORST Houston Rockets pummeled Washington 84-43.

The Wizards could do nothing with Rockets center Christian Wood, who scored 39 points on 18 field goal attempts. Wood finished the game 14-18 from the floor and 8-9 from three-point range. His shot chart reflects how easily he got exactly the shots he wanted.

For those keeping score at home, Wood’s effective field goal percentage was 100%.

Not everything was awful for the Wizards. Porzingis was good despite a poor shooting night. He got to the free throw line, grabbed four offensive rebounds and blocked five shots.

Deni Avdija shot poorly, but gave a solid defensive effort and contributed 4 assists.

Rui Hachimura had some nice moves and strong finishes early in the game.

If there’s a bright side to this humiliating loss, it’s that any pretense of contending for the play-in should be gone, even for the most delusional. The Wizards now have 11 games remaining to help their young players — and their head coach — figure out how they can translate potential into production.

The priority at this point should be minutes for Hachimura, Avdija, Daniel Gafford, and Corey Kispert. That’s the theoretical young core the team thinks they’ll put around Beal and Porzingis.

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: Wizards 97 at Rockets 115

FOUR FACTORS ROCKETS WIZARDS
FOUR FACTORS ROCKETS WIZARDS
EFG 0.612 0.447
OREB 6 10
TOV 12 11
FTM 11 21
PACE 95
ORTG 121 102

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 this season is 111.4. 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

WIZARDS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
WIZARDS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
Kristaps Porzingis 32 63 22 115 31.6% 195 27.1 -3
Deni Avdija 24 48 7 95 18.2% 144 15.2 -7
Rui Hachimura 30 59 16 113 22.1% 117 15.0 -16
Corey Kispert 33 65 13 130 12.7% 98 13.9 -17
Raul Neto 26 51 6 102 22.4% 93 10.2 -8
Daniel Gafford 14 28 8 152 16.6% 170 10.2 -11
Anthony Gill 8 16 4 145 14.6% 101 3.6 3
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 32 64 13 100 17.2% 13 1.8 -21
Ish Smith 17 34 5 57 22.0% -93 0.0 2
Tomas Satoransky 24 47 3 43 15.1% -128 0.0 -12

Key Stats: Rockets

ROCKETS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
ROCKETS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
Christian Wood 36 72 39 193 23.2% 367 42.4 17
Jalen Green 32 63 17 131 20.0% 271 27.1 28
Eric Gordon 25 49 15 145 17.2% 183 14.5 13
Garrison Mathews 22 43 6 129 9.6% 140 9.5 7
Kenyon Martin Jr. 16 31 5 118 14.0% 150 7.5 4
Alperen Sengun 25 49 7 86 21.6% 76 6.0 11
Jae'Sean Tate 19 38 7 99 29.9% 78 4.8 4
Dennis Schroder 23 45 8 104 22.5% 44 3.1 5
Kevin Porter Jr. 36 71 11 90 18.6% -9 0.0 15
Josh Christopher 7 14 0 49 9.5% -84 0.0 -14