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Recap: Wizards visit San Antonio and party like it’s 1999

Washington gets first win in San Antonio this millennium

Washington Wizards v San Antonio Spurs
Wizards forward Deni Avdija
Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

For the first time since 1999, the Washington Wizards won in San Antonio, tonight whipping the Spurs, 127-106.

It was a coming out party for Deni Avdija, who ran roughshod over the hapless Spurs with a career-high 25 points on just 12 field goal attempts. Avdija added 9 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block and even hit both his three-point attempts. He also played his usual excellent defense — both on-ball and as a help defender.

As part of the offensive game plan, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. had the team prepped to run actions for three-point sharpshooter Corey Kispert. He had Kispert screen for Bradley Beal in a set that produced a wide-open look from three.

On another play, Monte Morris and Taj Gibson ran a fake strongside action that appeared to be stymied. When Morris reversed the ball, Washington executed a weakside pindown that got Kispert another open three.

Yet another time, Kristaps Porzingis and Beal ran a horns dribble handoff that got Beal a free run into the paint. Instead of looking for his shot, Beal waited for defenders to step his way, then kicked to Kispert in the corner for a wide-open shot.

All set plays. All worked, in part because the Spurs are impossibly bad on defense.

Unseld used the weak opponent to do some lineup experimentation, including a small lineup of guards, wings and Porzingis.

Tonight was Washington’s sixth in a row — the franchise’s longest since an eight-game win streak in April 2021. The Wizards record is 24-26, and they’re currently ninth in the East. Since their 10-game losing streak in Nov. and Dec., they’re 13-6.

Good Stuff

  • This was Avdija’s best game as a pro. He played with poise, confidence and toughness. He’ll want to exercise a bit more caution on some of his drives — he got called for one offensive foul and could have been whistled for a couple more — but he was physical and finished through contact.
  • Beal bounced back from three poor performances with a strong 21 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists. In the first half, I joked that San Antonio’s Jeremy Sochan should start calling him “professor” because Beal was taking him to school.
  • Porzingis had 7 assists, 3 steals and 5 blocked shots.
  • Monte Morris played another one of his solid mistake-free games — 11 points on 6 field goal attempts, 4 assists and 1 turnover. The team defense was solid with him in the game.
  • Kispert’s usage was an astronomical (for him) 18.3%. He was 4-7 from three-point range and even contributed a couple assists and steals.
  • Weird stat of the night: three different Wizards (Kispert, Kendrick Nunn and Kyle Kuzma) shot 5-11 from the floor.

Not So Good Stuff

  • Kuzma was terrible — 5-11 from the floor, 1-3 from three-point range, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 turnovers. His defense, which was superb in their win against the New Orleans Pelicans was missing. He was the only Wizards player to score a negative relative to league average in my +PTS stat. He used 18 possessions to produce just 16 points — a total surpassed by Avdija, Beal and Porzingis — each of whom used fewer possessions.
  • The Spurs are perfectly built to give the franchise the best possible chance of drafting Victor Wembayana or Scoot Henderson. They have one playable guard: Tre Jones and one playable big man: Jakob Poeltl. Keldon Johnson is a solid forward. Doug McDermott can shoot and will likely be playing elsewhere by the end of next week. The same is true of Poeltl, and possibly Jones. Sochan might be good someday.

Next up: Washington can finish their five-game road trip undefeated by beating the Detroit Pistons.

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 Spurs

EFG 0.651 0.469
OREB 5 14
TOV 13 10
FTM 15 15
PACE 101
ORTG 126 105

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

Deni Avdija 33 70 25 152 20.4% 290 34.8 25
Bradley Beal 30 63 21 132 25.9% 274 29.5 13
Kristaps Porzingis 30 63 17 121 24.9% 212 23.0 9
Monte Morris 24 51 11 163 14.2% 205 18.0 11
Corey Kispert 27 57 14 117 18.3% 179 17.5 7
Kendrick Nunn 20 42 12 114 23.8% 194 14.2 11
Delon Wright 23 49 5 145 8.2% 133 11.2 10
Taj Gibson 18 38 4 132 11.4% 42 2.7 12
Vernon Carey Jr. 2 5 2 225 20.8% 260 2.1 2
Kyle Kuzma 32 66 16 88 26.9% 8 0.9 5

Stats & Metrics: Spurs

Keldon Johnson 34 71 26 121 26.5% 184 22.4 -10
Zach Collins 22 46 16 135 24.2% 272 21.4 -1
Tre Jones 31 64 9 123 16.4% 108 11.9 -4
Jeremy Sochan 27 57 17 123 22.9% 84 8.2 -9
Stanley Johnson 22 47 10 138 14.9% 85 6.9 -21
Keita Bates-Diop 34 71 9 71 20.1% 43 5.2 -7
Jakob Poeltl 22 45 7 100 18.5% 32 2.5 -14
Malaki Branham 18 37 6 91 18.1% 6 0.4 -12
Isaiah Roby 2 5 0 35 37.4% -165 0.0 -2
Doug McDermott 22 45 6 63 15.5% -55 0.0 -16
Blake Wesley 7 15 0 0 16.4% -208 0.0 -9