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Recap: Kuzma leads Wizards 4th quarter comeback win over Houston Rockets

Stats, analysis, commentary

Washington Wizards v Houston Rockets
Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma battles against the Houston Rockets.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After a raucous win the night before, the Wizards were somnambulant in the first half. They fell behind by as much 19 to the Houston Rockets — a team designed to lose. Kyle Kuzma and company apparently imbibed some halftime Red Bull and staged a spirited comeback. That, plus an impossibly sloppy Rockets performance, was enough for the Wizards to pull out the 108-103 victory.

The story of the game was Kuzma, who went super saiyan to blast the Rockets with 20 fourth quarter points. For the period, Kuzma shot 6-9 from the floor, 5-6 from three-point range and 3-4 from the free throw line.

The rest of the Wizards chipped in just enough for Kuzma’s final period heroics to matter. Delon Wright, getting the start in place of an injured Monte Morris, had some trouble with Jalen Green’s freaky quickness but was more than solid defensively overall. He came up with three more steals.

Deni Avdija shot poorly but led the team with 10 rebounds, as well as 3 assists, a steal and a block. His defense was excellent.

Bradley Beal was firing blanks — just 7-17 from the floor — and he committed one of his patented clutch turnovers, but he also hit a couple shots late to preserve Washington’s lead. Beal, by the way, is averaging a staggering 10.5 turnovers per 100 possessions in the clutch so far this season, according to On the bright side, he’s shooting 65.5%.

Daniel Gafford, who spent the first half getting tortured by Alperen Sengun, added 9 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks. The Rockets let Gafford off the hook by inexplicably going away from Sengun in the second half. Sengun finished with a triple-double — 21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists (plus 3 steals and 2 blocks).

Will Barton got some buckets. Jordan Goodwin played stellar defense (2 steals in just 15 minutes). Kendrick Nunn, in his first game since coming to the Wizards in the Rui Hachimura trade, scored 12 points, including a pair of threes and a highlight reel driving dunk.

After much fan clamoring to see Vernon Carey Jr. get some NBA minutes, Wes Unseld Jr. finally obliged. Carey was mostly a dud — 0-3 from the floor, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 fouls. The Wizards were -8 in his 6 minutes on the court.

The Rockets looked like they have much of the season, spring-loaded legs, directionless energy, spectacular plays followed by baffling ones. Welcome to a team with an average age of 22.5 — youngest in the NBA. During the game, I described them as a turnover machine, but actually they cut back a little. That’s not a joke — they had 14 against the Wizards. Their norm given the game pace: 17 or 18.

Sengun looks like he’s going to be an excellent NBA player. He’s a creative passer and shot maker, though he would benefit from adding range. And he needs to improve defensively.

Green might be good someday. He has the physical tools but is still learning to play. He’s also just 20 years old.

Tari Eason had a rough game against the Wizards, but he’s normally a productive bundle of hustle off the bench.

They’ll give Jabari Smith Jr. more time to figure things out, but he’s looked rough all season. Against the Wizards, he shot 2-10 from the floor, and didn’t score until the game was already essentially decided in the fourth quarter.

The Wizards are now on their fourth four-game winning streak of the season. Their next game, Saturday night against the New Orleans Pelicans, figures to be tougher, even though New Orleans will be missing Zion Williamson. The Wizards will likely have Kristaps Porzingis out of the lineup again.

Four Factors

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 Rockets

EFG 0.459 0.459
OREB 15 17
TOV 7 14
FTM 18 14
PACE 100
ORTG 108 103

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

Kyle Kuzma 41 86 33 114 27.3% 203 28.4 6
Kendrick Nunn 22 46 12 151 17.8% 301 22.5 7
Daniel Gafford 33 68 9 116 13.0% 114 12.6 17
Delon Wright 26 53 5 104 13.0% 140 12.2 -4
Jordan Goodwin 15 30 5 124 14.3% 223 11.0 16
Deni Avdija 30 62 10 89 18.8% 85 8.6 7
Corey Kispert 20 42 7 98 17.9% 115 7.8 0
Will Barton 9 19 8 124 36.2% 250 7.6 -8
Bradley Beal 30 62 17 89 28.1% 32 3.2 -5
Taj Gibson 8 18 2 133 11.2% 65 1.9 -3
Vernon Carey Jr. 6 13 0 60 22.3% -1 0.0 -8

Stats & Metrics: Rockets

Alperen Sengun 37 76 21 134 23.8% 270 33.6 3
Jae'Sean Tate 21 44 10 137 17.6% 316 22.5 16
Kenyon Martin Jr. 34 70 16 118 17.1% 191 21.9 12
Josh Christopher 9 18 6 219 14.7% 211 6.3 -16
Bruno Fernando 11 23 5 123 17.0% 145 5.5 -7
Tari Eason 19 39 5 89 16.1% 43 2.7 -6
Garrison Mathews 11 23 6 95 22.1% 63 2.4 -6
Jalen Green 38 79 19 93 25.5% 2 0.3 -1
Eric Gordon 31 65 9 58 20.1% -56 0.0 -21
Jabari Smith Jr. 29 61 6 60 17.7% -85 0.0 1