CORRECTED HEADLINE — Wizards are eliminated from the postseason.
Against the New York Knicks, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. and the Washington Wizards gave a nearly perfect clinic on how to tank.
They sat veterans with various aches and pains, including Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle Kuzma and Monte Morris — four of their usual five starters. They played the kids (more on that in a moment), even giving rookie Johnny Davis his first start. They put on what Knicks broadcaster Mike Breen called a “scrappy” first half.
And then, they got their doors blown off in the second half until a garbage time run brought the final margin down to a respectable nine points. Oh yeah, the Knicks also clinched their spot in the playoffs with the win.
Why wasn’t it perfect? The big thing was 17 minutes for 37-year old Taj Gibson. Sure, it was kinda fun watching him hit 4-5 from three-point range against his friends in New York, but those minutes — as well as those given to Anthony Gill — could have been given to a player whose age starts with a 2.
Also, I can’t think of a single reason Kendrick Nunn should have gotten 13 minutes of playing time.
I’m ambivalent about the 32 minutes given to Delon Wright. On one hand, Wright’s 30 years old and doesn’t need the minutes. On the other, competent veteran point guard play can help youngsters run the offense, and Wright’s someone who provides correction and accountability when there’s a missed assignment.
The veteran experience showed when Wright consistently found Kispert at the three-point line whenever the team was in transition. He played a key role in Kispert’s second consecutive career high scoring night.
On a third hand, it probably wouldn’t have hurt to beef up Jordan Goodwin’s playing time beyond the 25 minutes he got.
- Kispert added some twos to his usual diet of threes. He shot 6-8 from closer to the basket, and 4-11 from three to set a new career high with 29 points.
- Jordan Goodwin had a strong all-around game — 11 points, 7 rebounds (including 3 offensive boards), 6 assists, a steal and no turnovers.
- Wright shot poorly (just 3-9 with 1 three), but he had 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals.
- Johnny Davis wasn’t bad in his first start — 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists. He had some solid defensive possessions, and the team defense was at its best when he was on the floor. He also hit a couple threes (though his form still looks janky to me).
- The Wizards found some success trapping the ball handler in pick and roll. It’s something opposing teams have been doing to Jalen Brunson and the Knicks, especially with Julius Randle sidelined. The Wizards, though, have typically used drop coverage with a modest mix of switches and (rarer) traps. This was the best I’ve seen Gafford look recovering to the paint once the pass came out of the double-team — at least for a half.
Not So Good Stuff
- Deni Avdija was atrocious for a second straight game. He committed 8 turnovers, including 2 offensive fouls, losing the ball in traffic and an array of terrible passes. With both teams shooting well, the difference in this one was turnovers — Washington totaled 18 to New York’s 11. Bright side: Avdija hit a three and had 3 steals.
- I know Kispert set a new career high in points, but for him to be a valuable part of a good team there has to be more to his game. Last night in 34 minutes: 3 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 foul, zero assists, steals or blocks. His defense was poor. He doesn’t have to become Mr. Versatile, but he has to be able to do something on defense, even if it’s just sending his man baseline instead of letting him get middle any time he wants.
Standings/Lottery Odds Watch
The loss drops Washington to 34-44. The Wizards, Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic have identical records, which means they’re tied for 6th best lottery odds. One of these three teams entered the season with a “win now” mission.
The Portland Trail Blazers got a surprise win and are now hold just a one game lead for fifth best lottery odds. I’m half expecting them to offer me and Matt Modderno 10-day contracts to assure they don’t win again.
The Utah Jazz are now two games behind the Wizards, Pacers and Magic.
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 Knicks
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: Knicks