If there’s such a thing as a must-win 72nd game of an NBA season, this matchup with Orlando Magic was it. And the Wizards lost.
Well, they didn’t just lose — they got decisively beaten by the fifth worst team in the league. A team that entered the season with a plan for strategic losing to get another high draft pick and potential franchise player.
This was a stakes game for the Wizards that meant nothing to the Magic. And yet, it was the Wizards with a defensive game plan that set Orlando shooters free at the three-point line. This included, for some reason, Gary Harris, who entered the game shooting a career high 42.9% from deep. Against Washington: 6-9.
Meanwhile, Bradley Beal — The Official Franchise Player of the Washington Wizards — came up puny yet again. Games like this are ones where stars are supposed to lead their team to a win. Beal shot 4-15 from the floor and fouled out flopping to draw an offensive foul with just over two minutes to play.
While I’ve thought Wes Unseld Jr. and the coaching staff has done a decent job all season, their defensive plan last night was iffy. It included defending Orlando point guard Markelle Fultz with 7-3 center Kristaps Porzingis. That specific matchup worked okay.
Fultz is barely a 30% three-point shooter, and he missed all three of his attempts last night. But the plan left Fultz alone outside to set up teammates, be a safety valve if an action wasn’t working, and opportunities for running-start drives at the rim.
The cross-match also put the Wizards in other mismatches. Corey Kispert couldn’t keep up with Harris or Franz Wagner on the perimeter and was too small and insufficiently athletic to handle Paolo Banchero. Daniel Gafford was drawn away from the rim to chase Banchero or Wendell Carter Jr. Neither Bradley Beal nor Monte Morris had the size or defensive chops to stay with Harris.
When Orlando found success attacking with repeated dribble drives into the middle of Washington’s defense, Unseld switched to zone. Despite a young and inexperienced roster, the Magic kept getting the ball to their one high-quality three-point shooter, who nailed six in just 24 minutes.
For Washington, it was their third straight loss. They’re losers of 6 of their last 7, and 8 of their last 10. In that span, they’ve beaten the Detroit Pistons twice and lost at home to the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks (twice), and Sacramento Kings, and on the road to the Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic.
Ten games ago, the Wizards could control their fate with a challenging stretch of games that mattered — six of them at the Capital One Arena. They managed to beat a decimated Pistons.
They’re two-and-a-half games behind the Chicago Bulls with 10 games to play. The task is theoretically possible, but they’ll need help, and they’ll need to find a way to compete against teams that are better — which in truth is most teams. They’re tied with the Indiana Pacers for the league’s 7th worst record, and they have the 8th worst strength of schedule adjusted scoring margin. Realistically, participating in the draft lottery is significantly more likely than making the play-in.
- Porzingis was pretty good, scoring an efficient 30 points and at least attempting to defend. The team defense was at its least bad when he was in the game, and NBA tracking data credited him with contesting 16 Orlando field goal attempts.
- Deni Avdija had a strong second quarter on offense. He was 4-4 from the floor, including a pair of threes. His performance didn’t exactly carry over — he took just two more shots (one in the final minute when the game was out of reach) and finished with 15 points. He grabbed 10 defensive boards and had 3 assists and 2 steals. He also committed 4 turnovers, and had little defensive impact. Overall, it was still a good performance from him — one of the better games he’s had over the past couple weeks.
Not So Good Stuff
- Kispert shot just 1-5 from three and was roasted on defense. He had 3 assists and 2 turnovers.
- Delon Wright had a horrendous 16 minutes — 1-3 from the floor, zero rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers.
- Beal’s game was astonishingly bad for someone so lavished with status and compensation. The Wizards have repeatedly paid him the absolute maximum possible, and when the game mattered most, he was terrible — 4-15 from the floor, 0-2 from the three, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, zero steals, zero blocks, 2 turnovers, 6 fouls.
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: Wizards at Magic
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: Magic
|Wendell Carter Jr.||34||71||135||15.7%||2.2||100||14.5||4|