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Wizards hold off New Orleans Pelicans for 5th straight win

Stats, analysis and commentary

Washington Wizards v New Orleans Pelicans
Wizards center Daniel Gafford dominated inside in the team’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

In what could be one of the most encouraging signs of the season, the Wizards beat the New Orleans Pelicans on the road with Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma having crummy offensive games, and Kristaps Porzingis out of action with an ankle injury. Leading the way for Washington: the 24-and-under group of Daniel Gafford, Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert — with considerable help from old man Taj Gibson.

For the Wizards, it was their fifth straight win over an above-.500 team. The Pelicans are reeling. It was their seventh straight loss and 10th in 13 games since Zion Williamson strained his hamstring.

Washington (23-26) has clambered up to 10th in the East, though it’s really a virtual dead heat for 9th with the Indiana Pacers (24-27) and Chicago Bulls (23-26). The Wizards are currently tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the NBA’s second longest winning streak. The Philadelphia 76ers are at the top with a seven-game tear.

Last night’s game turned on a couple key plays. The first was Jonas Valanciunas getting tossed for elbowing Gibson in the head. It was probably accidental — Valanciunas was making an aggressive move to the basket, and Gibson was getting low for leverage to resist. Regardless, it was still a flagrant foul and a correct call to eject him.

The other came with 4:43 left in the game when the refs whistled Avdija for a foul on a Jose Alvarado drive. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. challenged the the call, and officials overturned the call. On that play, the Pelicans could have cut Washington’s lead to three and threatened to finish their comeback from a double-digit deficit.

Instead, the Wizards outscored New Orleans 16-11 the rest of the way to seal the victory.

Good Stuff

  • Since their 10-game losing streak, the Wizards record is 12-6. They have the league’s fifth easiest remaining schedule.
  • With Valanciunas ejected and Williamson injured, Gafford ran wild inside on the Pelicans. He finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds (5 offensive boards), a steal and 5 blocks. His rim protection was so effective, he forced the 6-11 Willy Hernangomez into an air-ball from three feet. Seriously.
  • Avidja had another strong performance. He scored 15 points on 8 field goal attempts and grabbed 9 defensive rebounds. His strong defense contributed to Brandon Ingram’s rough performance. The team was +14 with him on the floor.
  • Kispert didn’t do a whole lot, but he shot 4-6 from three-point range. That kind of accuracy forces defenses to account for him, even if he’s not getting a high volume of long-range attempts.
  • Gibson picked up where Gafford left off — 9 points, 10 rebounds (5 offensive), 3 assists and a block. And he used his head to get Valanciunas out of the game.
  • Kyle Kuzma had a crappy offensive game, but he had some stretches of stifling defense on Ingram.

Not So Good Stuff

  • Bradley Beal had a third straight bad game. Last night: just 5-17 from the floor, 4- rebounds, 5 assists and 5 turnovers. He did deliver some fourth quarter scoring that helped close out the victory, but his overall performance was poor.
  • Jordan Goodwin seemed to be a Wizards developmental success story. The undrafted free agent seemed to have earned a spot in the rotation with solid play when veterans were out with injury, and it was understandable when he lost minutes when Delon Wright returned. Now he’s behind the recently acquired Kendrick Nunn. That could turn out to be the correct decision, but it feels strange to see one of the team’s apparent success stories pushed behind players who don’t seem to be any better.

Telling Stats

  • In his second game back from injury, Ingram had a staggering 45.0% usage rate and an offensive rating of just 76. His inefficiency cost the Pelicans about 10 points, according to my +PTS stat, which compares a player’s points produced to league average points produced given the same number of possessions.
  • For the Wizards, positive offensive producers according to +PTS included Gafford +4.5, Kispert +3.8, Avdija +2.2 and Gibson +1.7. Beal -6.8, Kuzma -3.7, Nunn -2.8 and Wright -1.7 were below average in efficiency.
  • I estimate Beal at 15 zero-point possessions last night. That’s a) bad, and b) exactly what it sounds like — possessions he used in which the team failed to score a point. Ingram had 17. No one else on either team had more than Kuzma’s nine.
  • The Wizards outshot the Pelicans and grabbed more offensive rebounds (13-8). They also won the free throw battle, 22-17. That was enough to offset a -6 turnover differential.

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 Pelicans

EFG 0.517 0.467
OREB 13 8
TOV 16 10
FTM 22 17
PACE 101
ORTG 111 102

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

Daniel Gafford 29 62 21 144 24.7% 283 36.2 6
Deni Avdija 27 58 15 137 16.9% 222 26.4 14
Corey Kispert 26 55 12 179 10.8% 151 17.0 2
Taj Gibson 17 37 9 132 25.3% 183 13.8 3
Monte Morris 28 59 10 121 13.3% 63 7.6 6
Kyle Kuzma 38 80 10 85 16.1% 45 7.4 4
Delon Wright 24 52 8 94 16.5% 14 1.5 1
Kendrick Nunn 18 38 12 88 28.1% -28 0.0 0
Bradley Beal 33 69 16 82 30.8% -37 0.0 14

Stats & Metrics: Pelicans

CJ McCollum 36 76 24 123 25.3% 180 28.1 -7
Larry Nance Jr. 28 59 8 162 11.7% 170 20.7 0
Jose Alvarado 26 55 9 138 14.1% 106 12.0 -8
Naji Marshall 18 38 8 102 22.6% 149 11.6 -7
Devonte' Graham 17 36 9 125 17.0% 134 9.9 -7
Herbert Jones 31 65 8 142 8.0% 74 9.9 -6
Trey Murphy III 27 56 10 87 16.4% 67 7.8 -5
Willy Hernangomez 20 42 5 80 14.2% 69 6.1 -11
Brandon Ingram 29 61 22 76 45.0% -47 0.0 0
Jonas Valanciunas 9 19 0 0 24.6% -265 0.0 1