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Poole torches Knicks in Wizards preseason win

Washington Wizards v New York Knicks
Wizards guard Jordan Poole lit up Madison Square Garden with 41 points in just 27 minutes.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

In an entertaining exhibition romp against the New York Knicks, the Wizards got at least some of the items on their preseason wish list checked off.

The story of the game was Jordan Poole’s offensive pyrotechnics. While his shot selection wasn’t always ideal (he launched a 35-foot jumper with 18 seconds on the shot clock during the second quarter), his accuracy was terrific. For the game, he poured in 41 points in 27 minutes, shooting 10-19 from the floor, 6-12 from three-point range, and 15-16 from the free throw line.

In the “crushing disappointment” department, not all of his made free throws were swishes.

Poole is likely to have a few nights like this over the course of the season, and they’ll be fun when they happen.

The second best story: Mike Muscala making his first five three-point attempts, as well as a Dirk Nowitzki-style one-legged fadeaway en route to 20 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes.

Some observations:

  • Bilal Coulibaly had another strong defensive outing. My favorite play came around the 5:30 mark of the first quarter. He was loping back on defense, seemingly behind the play. RJ Barrett attempted a pass to a teammate who looked to be wide open in the corner. Coulibaly swooped in for an impossibly casual steal.
  • Coulibaly’s PPA for the game was 158 — an impressive mark for a guy who shot 1-5 from the floor. (PPA is my overall production metric. In PPA, 100 is average and higher is better). The one make was a three, and he was 4-4 from the free throw line. His usage rate was an anemic 12.7%. That needs to go up.
  • Daniel Gafford struggled again against an athletic big man. This time it was Mitchell Robinson who pushed him around for 6 offensive rebounds in 24 minutes.
  • The fan reaction to Tyus Jones is amusing. People seem surprised that his game reminds them of Monte Morris. In the statistical doppelgänger article I wrote this summer, 5 of Jones’ top 10 comps were seasons from Morris. That said, I thought his play was fine — 7 assists to 2 turnovers and a pair of steals.
  • Corey Kispert launched five threes in just over 21 minutes — a rate of more than 11 attempts per 100 team possessions. That’s good. To maximize his value to the Wizards, he needs to shoot. He also had a couple assists and two steals.
  • Deni Avdija returned to action after sitting the first two preseason games with a back injury. He hit a nice pullup midrange jumper and was solid on the defensive glass. He also had three assists to just one turnover. Overall, his game had the look of someone knocking off the rust after missing some time with an injury.
  • Poole, by the way, had an offensive rating of 143 (league average last season was 114.8) and a 47.2% usage rate. The only other Wizards players to crack 20% usage (the average) were Jones (24.9%), Ryan Rollins (20.4%), and Jared Butler (26.1%).

One sour note:

This is some bad body language from Avdija. I can understand the frustration — he needs to make plays and show what he can do, and he is wide open at the three-point line. But Poole was laying waste to the Knicks, and Avdija’s a career 31.0% three-point shooter. Handle this kind of thing in private, not with public passive-aggressive behavior that can undermine relationships and cohesion.

The last stop of the exhibition season is Friday night against the Toronto Raptors.