After losing four in a row, the Wizards took advantage of a classic NBA “get well” game and beat the San Antonio Spurs by a comfortable enough margin that big man Kristaps Porzingis didn’t need to play in the fourth quarter.
The lineup that blew the game open: Delon Wright, Jordan Goodwin, Corey Kispert, Anthony Gill and Daniel Gafford.
By some weird twist — perhaps because we’re on Earth 2.0 since 2016 — Porzingis was the only member of the team’s “Big Three” healthy enough to take the court. Bradley Beal was out with a sore knee; Kyle Kuzma with a sprained ankle. Truth is, the remainder of the roster was up to the task of dropping the Spurs, a team designed to get a high pick in what’s expected to be a historically strong draft.
In an unsurprising development, defense was highly optional for both teams. San Antonio ranks last in defense this season; the Wizards 21st. For the first three quarters, Washington “defended” like they wanted to move further down the list. For all four quarters, the Spurs “defended” like they wanted to keep their place at the bottom.
Washington had a blistering 68.8% effective field goal percentage — their second best shooting night of the year. Their 139 offensive rating (points per possession x 100) ranks as their fourth best night.
Against Washington’s defense, the Spurs were wildly efficient by normal NBA standards (nearly 12 points per 100 possessions above league average) but kinda ordinary for a team going against the Wizards. San Antonio’s efg was 56.9% — just the 29th best effort against Washington this season. Their 127 offensive rating was only Washington’s 11th worst defensive night of the season.
Entering the fourth quarter with a 99-98 advantage, the Wright and Goodwin led some actual defensive effort, the Spurs missed enough open looks, and the Wizards scored at will (14-21 shooting from the floor and 5-10 from three in the period). It was enough for Washington to open an 18-point advantage and coast home with a comfortable 12-point win.
- Delon Wright played with rare aggressiveness on offense, scoring 24 points on 14 field goal attempts in 29 minutes off the bench. His usage rate was 23.3%, a new season high for him.
- Porzingis had his way with San Antonio’s near complete lack of size. In 28 minutes, he scored 23 points on 11 field goal attempts, grabbed 9 rebounds and had 5 assists and 4 blocks. The Wizards blew open the game so quickly in the fourth quarter that he didn’t need to return to the game.
- Corey Kispert nailed threes (6-9) and attacked closeouts repeatedly and effectively en route to a career high 26 points.
- Jordan Goodwin was productive again — 17 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals. He even hit a lefty floater.
- The only time the Wizards approached defensive competence was when Wright and Goodwin were on the floor together. That’s a pairing the team should continue using.
- Deni Avdija played a strong all-around game that seemed ripped straight from the dreams of his biggest fans — 21 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, a decent defensive possession or two. He shot 3-6 from deep, drove into the paint and made some plays in transition.
Not So Good Stuff
- Put this in the category of nitpicking, but...I’d like to see Avdija increase the accuracy of his passes, especially in transition. Two or three times, he passed to a teammate who was set up for a wide-open shot but to catch his pass, they had to lunge for the ball. One I recall was to Wright, who did a balance beam thing to keep from stepping out of bounds. Another was to Kispert, who knocked the ball down like a cornerback to keep it from sailing into the stands, and then attacked the closeout.
- As long as I’m nitpicking, would it be too much for someone on the coaching staff to explain the verticality rule to Avdija and Johnny Davis? It’s not holding your arms up straight while stepping into the offensive player and bumping him with your chest. It’s actually standing or jumping straight up and down — vertically. The principle is that the defender is entitled to his space both on the floor and directly above that spot on the floor. If the defender is moving forward, he’s not maintaining his space, he’s entering the offensive player’s space. And if there’s contact, that’s a foul.
- Speaking of Davis, the more I see, the more worried I get. Last night: 1-5 from the floor, 1 assists, 1 turnover, 4 fouls in 15 minutes.
Standings/Lottery Odds Watch
Washington’s win paired with an Indiana Pacers loss (120-95 to the Boston Celtics) leaves the Wizards in 12th. The Pacers hold the tiebreaker to make the play-in, so if the teams finish with the same record, and the Chicago Bulls end up behind them, Indiana would get the play-in spot. The Wizards are two games behind the Chicago Bulls for 10th.
If you’re rooting for the Wizards to improve their chances in the NBA Draft Lottery, the win has Washington tied with the Pacers for seventh best odds. When teams finish with the same record, the NBA takes all the ping-pong balls that would be assigned to the two teams and divides them evenly. If there’s an odd number, they break the tie with a random drawing. The winner of that drawing gets the slightly better lottery odds.
The Wizards have a shot at getting as high as fifth, if they commit to finish the season with a hard tank, and teams ahead of them like the Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic and the Pacers accidentally win a few games more than expected. In other words, they’ll likely go hard for the play-in, finish 11th and end up with the ninth or tenth “best” lottery odds.
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: Spurs at Wizards
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: Spurs