It was just like a Wizards game only in reverse. The Minnesota Timberwolves bolted out to a 20-point first quarter lead, and then Washington clawed back a bit at a time. The Wizards chomped the lead to just four points in the third quarter before letting it balloon back to 17 late in the period.
The fourth quarter was all Washington as the Wizards doubled up the Timberwolves, 38-19. Bradley Beal powered the comeback with 21 second-half points, including 17 in the final period — 13 in the game’s last four-and-a-half minutes. Washington’s first lead of the game came when Kyle Kuzma hit a stepback three over Anthony Edwards with 1:14 remaining in the game.
For Washington, it was Beal and the bench mob that won the game. Beal did the scoring (35 points for the game), Delon Wright, Deni Avdija and Daniel Gafford defended and crashed the boards, and Corey Kispert sniped threes. It was enough to overcome subpar performances from Kristaps Porzingis, Monte Morris and Kuzma.
Minnesota’s production was an almost perfect opposite. Their starters were good-to-decent except for Mike Conley, and their bench was atrocious.
With the win, Washington enters the All-Star break with a 28-30 record and a positive scoring differential. They’re currently 9th in the East and solidly in the play-in picture. The 11th place Chicago Bulls are 2.5 games behind Washington. Moving past 8th is somewhat improbable over the final 24 games of the season — the Miami Heat are 3.5 games ahead of the Wizards and the New York Knicks are another half game in front of the Heat. They’re 6th and 7th.
Still, the Wizards can hit the Caribbean and enjoy some time off before the season resumes.
- Beal carried the Wizards offense on a night when he had little help. Early in the game, he appeared to be in playmaker mode. In the second half, he looked to score, and the Timberwolves couldn’t stop him — 35 points, 5 assists, 4-8 from three-point range. His offensive rating was a good-enough 111 with 37.3% usage.
- Wright was a defensive stopper who hounded Minnesota perimeter players into missed shots and turnovers, and he was efficient and helpful on offense. He also had three more steals last night. Despite playing just under 23 minutes per game, he ranks in the top three in steals per game. He’s not on the official leaderboard because of the missed games due to injury. He leads the NBA with 4.4 steals per 100 possessions.
- Avdija didn’t shoot well from the floor (3-8) but played a stellar all-around game. In 24 minutes, he led the team with 9 rebounds, dished 4 assists to just one turnover, and defended superbly.
- Kispert played a #SoKispert kind of game, but the good #SoKispert. In other words, he made shots — 5-7 from the floor and 4-6 from three-point range. He started the second half in place of Daniel Gafford.
- While head coach Wes Unseld Jr. dropped him from the second half starting group, it wasn’t because Gafford played poorly. In 19 minutes, he had 6 points (on 3-3 from the floor), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and 2 blocks. The team defense was stout when he was on the floor.
- Kendrick Nunn made an impact in a scant 13 minutes. He hit a three and was part of that stout defense. When Nunn, Wright, Avdija and Gafford were on the floor, Washington stifled Minnesota’s offense, holding it to an offensive rating around 81.
- The Wizards collectively overcame their trepidation of challenging Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, who’s still a superb defender.
- This game felt a bit like Unseld was repudiating criticisms of him point by point. For those who think he’s too rigid with his lineups, he changed the second half starters and cut playing time for the ineffective Monte Morris. For those who complain about “lack of adjustments,” he switched from their usual man defense to a stifling zone. And his reputation for meticulous preparation was evident on that late-game steal by Avdija. They were clearly anticipating a hammer action*** to get a corner three and Avdija was right there to intercept the pass.
*** Hammer actions are basically a pick-and-roll on one side that develops into a screen on the weakside to free up a shooter for a corner three. The variations can be difficult to defend, even when the defense knows it’s coming. In this case, the Wizards were ready, and they were helped by a half-assed screen by Rudy Gobert.
Not So Good Stuff
- Kuzma nearly shot the Wizards out of the game. He helped some defensively and recovered enough to hit a pair of threes, including the go-ahead shot, in the fourth quarter. The issues: shot selection and discipline. What I mean is he was too often taking difficult shots instead of using his size and skills to get easier ones. Floaters instead of powering to the rim. Fading jumpers instead of drives. By discipline, I mean executing proper form when taking uncontested shots. He had several open looks from deep that he missed because he drifted left instead of going straight up.
- Kuzma also had 4 turnovers to just 1 assist. Just a sloppy game from him.
- After dominating the Timberwolves when the played in DC earlier this season and talking about how much he liked facing drop coverage bigs, Porzingis was ineffective against Gobert and Minnesota.
- Morris could get nothing going offensively and the team defense was a wreck with him on the floor. He contribute a team-high 6 assists to just 1 turnover.
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 Timberwolves
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.
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.
+PTS = Tentatively dubbed “plus points,” this stat 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.
Note: I dropped points scored from the table because a) it’s easily available just about everywhere, and b) there’s a limit to the number of columns I could use in the tables.
Also note: In the tables for this game, I put an * next to bench players for each team.
Stats & Metrics: Wizards
Stats & Metrics: Timberwolves