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Wizards get ensemble win in home opener against the Memphis Grizzlies

Stats, analysis, and commentary.

Memphis Grizzlies v Washington Wizards
Wizards forward Deni Avdija played solid defense against Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards got their first win of the 2023-24 season in an entertaining and somewhat harrowing home opener against the Memphis Grizzlies. It was an ensemble victory, with contributions coming from up and down the roster.

The teams got of to a slow offensive start. In the opening period, the Grizzlies connected on four of 10 three-point attempts, but just 4-14 on twos. The Wizards weren’t much better — 6-17 from three and 1-7 on twos. Still, it was enough to close the first with a three-point lead.

Washington opened the margin with some stellar shooting in the second quarter (6-12 from three-point range). At the half, the Wizards had built a 16-point lead. The Wizards kept their foot on the gas in the third, opening a 25-point lead at one point.

Then a tired and short-manned Memphis squad (this was the second night of a back-to-back, and they opened the season with three games in four days) started hitting shots and making plays, and clawed Washington’s lead to just six with 1:50 left to play. The Wizards let them come no closer, and finished the night with a 113-106 win.

The story of the first half was Corey Kispert, who torched the Grizzlies with all 22 of his points on 8-12 shooting, including 5-8 from three. He got free with an array of timely short area cuts — moving quickly along the three-point line, sometimes timed or induced by a teammate screen — as well as a well-designed play where he starts in a corner and sprints to the opposite side with a guard screen in the paint and a big man screen on the low block. Meanwhile, out top, the Wizards would run a fake action to make the Grizzlies think they were trying to get something going on the strong side.

Probably my favorite version of the night involved three potential screens and actually resulted in a miss. Kispert fed the ball to Avdija at the elbow and got a back screen from Delon Wright. Memphis switched, but then Jordan Poole put Kispert’s new defender (Marcus Smart) on the ground with a hard pick under the basket. Daniel Gafford was ready to set the third screen, but it wasn’t necessary. Gafford’s man (Xavier Tillman Sr.) closed out (weakly), but Kispert missed anyway. (This play was at 6:30 of the second quarter, for those who want to look it up.’s “share” feature isn’t producing links for some reason.)

The Memphis coaching staff adjusted their coverage on him at halftime, denied the ball, and prevented Washington from successfully executing the sequence of screens.

Thoughts & Observations

  • Efficient, professional game from Tyus Jones. Some of the assists were of the “hold the ball until a shooter gets himself free” variety, and he creates no rim pressure, but he’s skilled at driving just far enough to get the help defender to take a step his way...and then he hits a teammate for an open shot.
  • Gafford more than held his own in the middle against Tillman and Jaren Jackson Jr. He had 11 rebounds, two blocks, and the team defense was at its best when he was on the floor.
  • Kuzma was good in the fourth quarter.
  • It was a good game from Deni Avdija. His defense on Desmond Bane was good early, he shot 2-3 on threes, including one off the dribble, and scored on a nifty backdown into a spin-and-drive against Ziaire Williams that included a finish against a helping Jackson. If I’m nitpicking, I want him to do a better job keeping penetration out of the middle when he’s defending on the perimeter.
  • Delon Wright shot poorly (0-3 from the floor) but was terrific otherwise — 7 assists, 2 steals and a block in 21 minutes. Opposing players need to think twice before dribbling when he’s on them.
  • Danilo Gallinari shot well (again) but he didn’t play in the second half. That’s likely because the team defense collapses when he’s in the game. His lack of mobility is a real problem on that end.
  • Kuzma and Poole wasted a bunch of possessions with questionable shot selection, and in Poole’s case sloppy turnovers. The two combined to produce 44 points in the 48 possessions they used. Their teammates combined to produce 69 points in 54 possessions used. They combined for a 91 offensive rating (points produced per possession x 100). Their teammates: 128. League average so far this season is about 110. Here’s another way to think about it: Kuzma and Poole combined to use 47% of the team’s possession to produce 38.5% of the team’s points.
  • Rough night for Bilal Coulibaly, who got both his shot attempts blocked by John Konchar. This included what started as an open three that Coulibaly took so long to release that Konchar blocked it on a fairly perfunctory closeout (check 2:39 of the first quarter).
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. commits a lot of dumb fouls, which undercuts his superb defense, and is a challenge for a Memphis team that needs him on the floor for more than the 31 minutes he managed last night.
  • The team with the better effective field goal percentage wins about 80% of the time in the NBA. Last night was one of the 20% — the Grizzlies outshot the Wizards, but Washington had sizeable advantages in each of the key factors.

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).

Four Factors: Grizzlies at Wizards

EFG 0.533 0.516
OREB 6 11
TOV 16 11
FTM 9 17
PACE 102
ORTG 104 111

Stats & Metrics

Below are a few performance metrics, including the Player Production Average (PPA) Game Score. 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. 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 sometimes producing weird results.

POSS is the number of possessions each player was on the floor in this game.

ORTG = offensive rating, which is points produced per individual possessions x 100. League average last season was 114.8. 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 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.

+PTS = “Plus Points” is a measure of the points gained or lost by each player based on their efficiency in this game compared to league average efficiency on the same number of possessions. A player with an offensive rating (points produced per possession x 100) of 100 who uses 20 possessions would produce 20 points. If the league average efficiency is 114, the league — on average — would produced 22.8 points in the same 20 possessions. So, the player in this hypothetical would have a +PTS score of -2.8.

Stats & Metrics: Wizards

Tyus Jones 28 59 142 19.7% 3.7 226 23.8 5
Corey Kispert 32 67 131 20.1% 2.8 179 21.8 5
Daniel Gafford 28 60 143 13.1% 2.6 152 16.5 8
Kyle Kuzma 36 76 97 26.7% -2.7 110 15.1 -1
Deni Avdija 27 58 123 14.1% 1.1 134 14.0 9
Delon Wright 20 44 107 14.0% -0.2 142 11.1 2
Danilo Gallinari 8 16 156 18.7% 1.4 181 5.3 2
Mike Muscala 11 24 215 5.4% 1.4 85 3.6 -2
Jordan Poole 36 76 87 36.1% -6.4 13 1.7 13
Bilal Coulibaly 14 30 0 8.5% -2.8 -110 0.0 -6

Stats & Metrics: Grizzlies

John Konchar 22 47 122 11.4% 0.6 241 22.5 1
David Roddy 24 51 149 16.5% 3.3 193 19.7 0
Ziaire Williams 34 72 106 17.3% -0.5 98 14.1 -1
Desmond Bane 34 72 104 32.8% -1.4 93 13.5 -11
Marcus Smart 32 68 104 14.3% -0.6 98 13.4 -14
Jaren Jackson Jr. 31 66 111 21.0% 0.2 86 11.3 5
Derrick Rose 18 39 84 28.4% -2.9 81 6.3 9
Xavier Tillman 24 51 115 15.2% 0.4 52 5.2 -14
Jake LaRavia 16 33 62 22.3% -3.6 -53 0.0 -11
Kenneth Lofton Jr. 5 11 30 19.2% -1.7 -221 0.0 1