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Wizards stay close most of the way before losing to the Chicago Bulls, 107-94

Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards
Wizards forward Rui Hachimura.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

A number of times this season, I’ve described final scores as “deceptively close.” Last night, Washington’s 13-point loss to the Chicago Bulls felt like the inverse — the final margin was deceptively large.

For three-plus quarters, the Wizards and Bulls were in a competitive game. It felt like one Chicago would win because they’re playing for post-season seeding, but it was competitive nonetheless. There were seven ties, 10 lead changes, and the longest run by either team was nine. Until they blew the game open over the final seven minutes, the Bulls couldn’t push their lead past nine, and the Wizards even held a brief three-point lead early in the third quarter.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to proclaim a moral victory. The Wizards struggled on offense and were subpar defensively overall (with some exceptions). Still, they competed throughout, played a decent game, and there was some stuff to like.

What went well

  • Third-year forward Rui Hachimura made shots — 8-10 from the floor, 2-3 from three-point range, 3-4 from the free throw line. He had a very Hachimura kind of stat line. He scored 21 points on 10 field goal attempts, got four rebounds, and had zero assists, steals or blocks.
  • Second-year forward Deni Avdija had one of his better games of the season. He scored efficiently and played with aggression that didn’t go overboard. In addition to a stat-stuffer kind of line — 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block, he had a sweet behind the back pass to Hachimura in transition for a layup, and a number of good defensive plays. In a game where he had that gorgeous behind-the-back pass, the play I liked most was a defensive sequence where stayed in front of DeRozan on repeated attempts to drive, and kept his hands back as DeRozan tried to draw a foul. DeRozan ended the play by calling timeout after falling down. It was a strange officiating decision — they could have whistled Avdija for bumping DeRozan, or they could have called DeRozan for traveling. Instead, they merely granted DeRozan the timeout.
  • Tomas Satoransky gave a fascinating master class in how to play well without shooting. He was just 1-4 from the floor in 25 minutes, but he handed out 10 assists and played some solid defense.

What didn’t go well

  • Shooting, except for Hachimura, Avdija and sorta Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Satoransky was just 1-4. Kristaps Porzingis: 6-14. Ish Smith: 4-10. Daniel Gafford: 1-5. Corey Kispert: 3-10.
  • Turnovers — the Wizards committed 14 in 93 offensive possessions. That’s very slightly on the high side, but the Bulls committed just 8, and as I wrote in the preview, Chicago isn’t much good at forcing turnovers. The top giveaway artists: KCP with 4, Ish Smith with 3, and Avdija and Hachimura with 2 each.
  • Defending Nikola Vucevic. Sure, Vucevic was on a heater, but Porzingis’ slow feet couldn’t keep pace as the Chicago center scored 20 points in the first half and finished 27 on 19 shots in 31 minutes.
  • Porzingis’ lack of mobility is something to keep an eye on. He got off to a productive start in Washington, but his production has tapered down over the past few games. Never quick to start with, the injury history seems to have taken a little off the top. If the Wizards hope to make the playoffs next season, they’ll need a healthy, productive and mobile Porzingis.

Other Observations & Thoughts

  • In a league with Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, I think the MVP talk around DeMar DeRozan to be silly. That said, he’s excellent and having the best season of his career. He’s a big reason the Bulls won. He poured in 23 second-half points on just 15 field goal attempts.
  • Javonte Green is explosive.
  • I’ve heard so many good things about Patrick Williams that I keep watching him play in the hopes of seeing what’s impressed so many. Last night was probably as close as I’ve come to understanding the appeal. There wasn’t much offense (12.4% usage rate — some of that coming from offensive rebounds), but he got after the boards and defended well — the Wizards scored less than a point per possession when he was in the game.

The 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: Bulls 107 at Wizards 94

EFG 0.541 0.519
OREB 6 7
TOV 8 14
FTM 15 12
ORTG 115 101

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. The scale is the same as points and reflects each player’s total contributions for the game. The lowest possible GmSC is zero. At the suggestion of a reader, I’m experimenting with a fairly minor tweak to Game Score. I won’t describe it here, because I’m curious to see who can figure what I changed.

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

Rui Hachimura 31 59 21 143 20.8% 203 23.8 -4
Deni Avdija 29 55 14 119 20.3% 187 20.5 -11
Tomas Satoransky 25 49 3 131 13.9% 134 13.1 -1
Kristaps Porzingis 29 57 14 95 28.0% 88 10.0 -9
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 32 62 20 91 27.5% 62 7.7 -6
Ish Smith 23 44 8 71 28.2% 28 2.5 -12
Anthony Gill 17 34 2 136 6.0% 9 0.6 -9
Raul Neto 1 2 0 0.0% 0 0.0 0
Daniel Gafford 19 36 2 75 17.6% -1 0.0 -4
Corey Kispert 34 66 10 86 16.2% -3 0.0 -9

Key Stats: Bulls

Nikola Vucevic 31 60 27 141 28.6% 247 29.4 0
DeMar DeRozan 36 70 32 113 36.6% 177 24.6 10
Javonte Green 13 25 9 206 13.9% 404 20.1 7
Patrick Williams 25 48 6 120 12.4% 136 12.8 8
Alex Caruso 28 54 2 94 8.0% 105 11.3 9
Tristan Thompson 17 33 4 170 10.0% 149 9.8 13
Ayo Dosunmu 27 51 4 129 10.3% 80 8.2 3
Coby White 29 56 9 99 17.9% 51 5.8 18
Zach LaVine 34 66 14 92 20.5% -4 0.0 -3