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Wizards lose to Hawks, 118-103

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks
The Wizards and Kristaps Porzingis had an odd defensive plan against the Atlanta Hawks and Trae Young.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Wizards hopes of finishing the regular season like the bubble Phoenix Suns lasted zero games. The players may have told NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes they believe there are long-term benefits of winning, but they failed to do the on-court work that’s required to actually win, and therefore lost, 118-103 to the Atlanta Hawks.

Washington’s defensive strategy against Trae Young — one of the game’s elite offensive weapons — was to play drop coverage. Young had a rough shooting night early, but later feasted on the open looks.

Kristaps Porzingis repeatedly got caught in the wrong position. In the second half, with the Wizards still close enough to go on a run and win, Porzingis didn’t bother to follow the screener and was 15+ feet from the action. Worse: he was on the wrong side of the screening action. Young used the screen to go right, his defender died on the screen and Young got one of the most preposterously wide-open threes imaginable.

With Danilo Gallinari knocking down a mix of open and wide-open shots, Rui Hachimura continued to set up defensively on the edge of the paint. This gave the borderline immobile Gallinari abundant time and space to catch-and-shoot. He finished the game with 26 points on 11-19 shooting, including 4-7 from three-point range.

While the Wizards were poorly executing a weird game plan for Young and not adjusting to Gallinari’s shooting, they also managed to keep losing track of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who shot 6-9 from three-point range.

And oh yeah, with all the drop coverage and sagging to the paint — intended to keep the Hawks away from the rim — Atlanta center Clint Capela blasted the Wizards with 19 points on 9-11 shooting.

The Wizards were basically just as bad on the offensive end. Porzingis shot well from long range, Tomas Satoransky hit some shots, and Daniel Gafford was efficient (5-6 from the floor en route to 12 points). They committed 14 turnovers, which was truly a team effort — Porzingis, Ish Smith, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had three each, while Satoransky, Deni Avdija and Hachimura each had two.

I wasn’t the only one puzzled by how the Wizards were playing. Hawks broadcaster Dominique Wilkins seemed genuinely interested in the early going to see Hachimura’s improved shooting. In the second half, he urged Atlanta to let him keep shooting because his line drive shot had to be perfectly accurate to have a chance of going in.

After watching Avdija inexplicably jumped without knowing whether he would shoot or pass and then just flipped the ball for grabs, a startled Wilkins said, “What in the world was that?!”

Later in the game, Vince Carter, who’s part of Atlanta’s broadcast team and joins a long list of people who would be good replacements for Drew Good, responded to an Avdija play with: “Wow, he’s thrown some really bad passes.”

At another point, Wilkins described Avdija as “foul prone.” At another, Carter said the Wizards should think about playing better on defense instead of looking to the refs for help.

Early in the third quarter, Wilkins and Carter agreed the Hawks should keep running their favorite offensive action because, “...they [the Wizards] don’t know how to defend pick-and-roll.”

What did the Wizards do well? To be blunt, not much. Porzingis hit some threes and tied his career high with 18 rebounds. Satoransky was decent. Gafford was good on the offensive end, but the defense was horrible when he was in the game. The Wizards Young Three ranged from meh (Corey Kispert) to bad (Avdija) to terrible (Hachimura).

As old friend Fred Katz might say, “Yikes, guys.”

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: Wizards 103 at Hawks 118

EFG 0.547 0.554
OREB 6 7
TOV 14 6
FTM 9 16
ORTG 106 121

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.

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 111.7. 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

Kristaps Porzingis 32 66 26 124 32.4% 235 27.3 -3
Tomas Satoransky 25 52 9 135 14.5% 138 12.6 -1
Corey Kispert 32 65 12 117 14.8% 85 9.8 -10
Daniel Gafford 14 29 12 171 19.7% 162 8.4 -16
Ish Smith 23 46 9 84 28.2% 62 5.0 -14
Deni Avdija 34 68 9 92 19.3% 24 2.9 -16
Anthony Gill 13 27 4 129 9.0% 58 2.8 5
Thomas Bryant 4 9 2 96 18.0% 106 1.7 3
Raul Neto 4 9 2 96 18.0% 36 0.6 3
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 26 53 9 81 19.3% -3 0.0 -7
Rui Hachimura 32 64 9 66 18.5% -48 0.0 -19

Key Stats: Hawks

Trae Young 37 75 30 133 34.3% 268 35.6 28
Danilo Gallinari 39 80 26 130 21.5% 230 32.3 10
Clint Capela 25 51 19 159 20.1% 345 31.2 4
Bogdan Bogdanovic 28 58 18 146 19.9% 231 23.6 21
Delon Wright 26 53 2 121 6.4% 169 15.7 16
Onyeka Okongwu 21 43 8 147 14.8% 144 11.0 15
Jalen Johnson 2 3 0 0.0% 111 0.6 -4
Skylar Mays 2 3 0 0.0% 0 0.0 -4
Sharife Cooper 2 3 0 0.0% 0 0.0 -4
Kevin Knox II 2 3 0 26.2% -385 0.0 -4
Kevin Huerter 29 58 5 13.8% -29 0.0 -6
Gorgui Dieng 2 3 0 0 52.5% -589 0.0 -4
De'Andre Hunter 27 55 10 24.0% -52 0.0 7