The Wizards went to Atlanta in need of a win, and they emerged with one by the air-conditioned drift on two Trae Young threes in the final seconds.
Weirdly, while both teams scored with high efficiency — each had an offensive rating north of 120 — both teams competed defensively for the most part. Atlanta’s Trae Young was incompetent, and the Wizards hunted him all night. His backcourt partner Dejounte Murray is a much better defender, and he got torched by Bradley Beal as well.
The efficiency didn’t derive from great shot-making. Atlanta shot slightly better (effective field goal percentage 53.2% vs. Washington’s 52.6%). The teams each made 17 free throw, and turnovers were about even — 9 for the Hawks, 8 for the Wizards. The difference: Washington got 16 offensive boards to Atlanta’s 13, and that resulted in four additional field goal attempts. That was enough to offset their 13-6 deficit in made threes.
Beal carried the offensive load for the Wizards, especially in the fourth quarter when he hit a bevy of clutch shots. Daniel Gafford held his own against Clint Capela inside, Delon Wright was competent, Jordan Goodwin played well in a backup role, and Corey Kispert hit some threes.
- Beal bounced back from a subpar performance against the Bulls to put on an offensive show the Hawks were helpless to stop. He dominated in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points on 6-8 shooting. He also had a handful of good defensive possessions against Young.
- Going against Capela — a high-quality and underrated center — Gafford had a good game — 13 points, 12 rebounds (4 offensive), and 3 blocks. His ability to convert around the rim is impressive, as is his willingness to stick to what he does well.
- With Morris out of the lineup, Goodwin got extended minutes and once again produced — 6 points on 3 shots, 4 assists and 2 steals in 18 minutes. Not bad for the undrafted free agent who just signed a new three-year contract.
- Delon Wright made his shots, defended and played mistake-free basketball (4 assists, zero turnovers).
- Deni Avdija tied Gafford for the team lead with 4 offensive rebounds. He led the team in overall rebounds with 13.
- One of my favorite plays of the night was a pick-and-roll Atlanta ran for Trae Young. Young got into the lane, but Gafford loomed at the rim, which cut off a layup. The guard chasing from behind meant the floater wasn’t possible. A rotating defender cut in front of the Atlanta big man, which meant the lob wasn’t available. Young floated in the air for a moment before flipping the ball to the only open man — Murray, who was in the corner for an open look from three, which he missed. For me, it was an illustration of how challenging defense can be in the NBA. The Wizards defended the play as well as it could be done and still gave up an open look because Young is very good and the play was well-designed.
Not So Good Stuff
- Kyle Kuzma’s inefficiency once again proved costly. I get the argument that he has to take some shots because the team lacks shot creators. The problem is that good players — the kind who get franchise cornerstone status — make shots. At one point, he flung up a stepback three that missed badly. Hawks broadcaster Dominique Wilkins called it a “heat check.” The problem: with the brick, Kuzma was shooting just 9-20. He finished 10-26. And he didn’t help with rebounding or defense.
- Avdija competed on defense and contributed on the glass but he shot just 2-9 from the floor, missed his only three-point attempt and hamstrung the offense on a couple occasions by turning down open threes.
- Taj Gibson has had a good career, but he’s inadequate as a backup center at this age and in this version of the NBA. The Wizards need Kristaps Porzingis back if for no other reason than to curtail Gibson’s minutes.
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 Hawks
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. 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 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 = “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.
Stats & Metrics: Wizards
Stats & Metrics: Hawks