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Recap: Jokic and Nuggets hand Wizards 4th straight defeat, 118-104

Denver Nuggets v Washington Wizards
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic wrecked the Washington Wizards.
Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

This one was no surprise. The Wizards entered the night 11th in the East with the NBA’s eighth worst scoring differential. The Denver Nuggets came to DC first in the West and sixth in scoring differential. Washington got some nice moments from young players but got blasted 39-16 in the third quarter and lost, 118-104.

The Wizards have now lost four in a row, seven of their last eight, and nine of their last 11. Their lone victories were against the husk of a terrible and decimated Detroit Pistons.

In this one, big man Kristaps Porzingis scored at will when he could stay on the court. He poured in 25 points in just 22 minutes, shooting 11-17 from the floor — mostly over smaller Denver defenders. But he committed his third foul just 34 seconds into his second quarter rotation and had to sit. Foul trouble wasn’t an issue in the third quarter. Porzingis shot 3-6 and scored 6 points while Washington got outscored by 15 in his eight minutes on the floor.

Deni Avdija erupted in the second quarter driving to the basket aggressively for scores and to set up teammates, pushing the ball in transition, and finishing strong at the rim. His second half was pocked with turnovers and miscues. He was at his worst in the third quarter when he committed all four of his turnovers and the Wizards got outscored by 18 points with him on the floor. He would finish with 16 points on 7-9 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists to 4 turnovers.

While Bradley Beal (sore knee) and Kyle Kuzma (sprained ankle) were out of the lineup, the problems Washington had in the game had very little to do with missing them. The Wizards scored with reasonable efficiency (offensive rating: 116) despite shooting just 4-26 from three. The problem: defense. Or, more precisely, an inability to defend when two-time MVP Nikola Jokic was on the floor.

As he’s done to the entire NBA the past three seasons, Jokic shredded the Wizards with 31 points, 12 rebounds 7 assists and 3 steals. His efficiency was preposterous — 12-16 from the floor, 2-3 from three-point range, 5-5 from the free throw line. He missed four shots all night, and he collected five offensive rebounds. He committed two turnovers but had seven assists — and would have had at least another seven if teammates hadn’t missed open shots.

If Ted Leonsis and Tommy Sheppard were paying attention and willing to learn, they would have received a lesson on the difference between very good and elite. My guess is they were preoccupied with lamenting injuries.

Jokic got plenty of support from Michael Porter Jr. — 21 points on 6-9 shooting from three — and Jamal Murray — 22 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists. Aaron Gordon was quietly efficient — 12 points on 6 shots and solid defense. Jeff Green scored 11 on 6 shots and threw down one of his signature Uncle Jeff dunks.

The loss didn’t put Washington any further behind the Chicago Bulls for 10th, because the Bulls lost too. The Wizards are a full game back of the Indiana Pacers for 11th.

Good Stuff

  • Avdija played with confidence and aggression. For a half, he was very good on offense — 6-7 from the floor, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, no turnovers.
  • Porzingis punished mismatches with a simple rise-and-shoot attack that was impossible for the Nuggets to defend.
  • Delon Wright and Jordan Goodwin came off the bench to provide some positive production. Wright’s defensive metrics were good, though they did come when Jokic was off the floor.

Not So Good Stuff

  • The wheels came off Avdija’s night in the second half — 1-2 from the floor, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 turnovers. He made little defensive impact in either half, though he was significantly less effective in the second. The horrific team defense with him out there (a defensive rating of 156) was a big reason why the Wizards were -23 with Avdija in the game.
  • Porzingis sat after picking up his third foul midway through the second quarter. The big man needs to figure out how to defend effectively while fouling less because the Wizards need him on the offensive end. The team defense utterly failed with Porzingis out there — a defensive rating of 169. While Porzingis scored 25 points in 22 minutes, the team was outscored by 18.
  • Corey Kispert seemed intent on showing dimension to his game, and...maybe he should stick to the threes. He was 3-10 from the floor, 1-7 from deep and got regularly beat on defense.
  • I’m not sure why Wes Unseld Jr. continues to play Taj Gibson, even in a situation where Kuzma is out of action. Gibson was thoroughly outmatched again, and the team was -9 in his 11 minutes on the floor.
  • You’d think that with all the jubilation from Drew Gooden and Chris Miller that Johnny Davis was having a breakout performance that forever cemented him as a rising NBA star. In reality, outside a couple nice reverse layups and a couple balls that bounced his way, Davis was largely ineffective — 3-9 from the floor, 0-3 from deep, 3 rebounds, a steal and 4 fouls. While Wizards fans should still hope Davis can turn things around and become a productive NBA player in the future, there’s no getting around the fact that he’s had a disastrous rookie year. That would be cause for consternation in most NBA franchises.

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: Nuggets at Wizards

EFG 0.596 0.529
OREB 11 10
TOV 10 7
FTM 19 12
ORTG 132 116

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

Deni Avdija 32 59 122 23.1% 1.0 120 13.9 -23
Kristaps Porzingis 22 42 136 37.7% 3.4 138 11.2 -18
Delon Wright 21 38 121 16.6% 0.4 132 9.9 -4
Jordan Goodwin 17 32 126 26.0% 0.9 139 8.8 -4
Kendrick Nunn 8 16 182 21.6% 2.3 284 8.7 -1
Monte Morris 25 46 97 22.5% -1.8 87 7.8 -16
Corey Kispert 31 57 101 16.6% -1.3 39 4.3 -12
Anthony Gill 10 19 120 14.3% 0.1 74 2.8 -1
Jay Huff 4 7 143 28.7% 0.5 138 1.8 6
Xavier Cooks 4 7 246 3.8% 0.3 133 1.8 6
Daniel Gafford 29 53 115 9.7% 0.0 16 1.7 -14
Quenton Jackson 4 7 67 34.1% -1.1 86 1.1 6
Taj Gibson 11 21 36 8.5% -1.4 -11 0.0 -9
Johnny Davis 23 44 84 19.3% -2.6 -17 0.0 14

Stats & Metrics: Nuggets

Nikola Jokic 34 63 169 30.2% 10.3 423 51.8 28
Michael Porter Jr. 31 57 131 24.8% 2.3 277 31.0 28
Jamal Murray 33 62 133 22.3% 2.5 202 24.4 22
Aaron Gordon 31 57 156 11.4% 2.7 155 17.3 28
Bruce Brown 29 54 116 22.3% 0.2 114 12.1 5
Jeff Green 15 27 148 22.7% 2.0 119 6.3 -8
Thomas Bryant 3 5 147 48.1% 0.8 428 4.3 -6
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 29 55 84 16.2% -2.7 9 1.0 6
Peyton Watson 3 5 248 4.9% 0.3 0 0.0 -6
Ish Smith 3 5 63 19.3% -0.5 -66 0.0 -6
Zeke Nnaji 12 22 110 8.6% -0.1 -56 0.0 -8
Vlatko Cancar 3 5 0 19.5% -1.1 -266 0.0 -6
Christian Braun 16 30 46 9.0% -1.9 -99 0.0 -7