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The Numbers Crunch: Jokic dominates Nuggets win at Washington Wizards

Stats, analysis, commentary.

Denver Nuggets v Washington Wizards
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic dominated the Washington Wizards inside en route to a win in DC.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Now that’s more like it. Yes, the Wizards lost again. Yes, the nine-point final margin was closer than the game felt. But considering they were taking on the defending champion Denver Nuggets, and Nikola Jokic, the best player on the planet, Washington played about as well as could be expected.

Washington’s defensive game plan was clear on the game’s first possession. They would defend Jokic one-on-one — without helping off shooters or double teams. Jokic predictably torched the Wizards with 26 first half points. He finished with 42 points on 20 field goal attempts, plus 12 rebounds, 8 assists, a steal and three blocks. He didn’t commit a turnover. Add in 12-14 from the free throw line, and that’s good for a 175 offensive rating (points per possession x 100) on a 31.5% usage rate.

It’s fair to say he wrecked the Wizards in the paint. Just check out Jokic’s shot chart.

Nikola Jokic shot chart against the Wizards.

Even with Jokic’s eruption, the defensive plan kinda worked. Or, more accurately, it failed less badly than Washington’s norm. The Wizards stayed out of the scrambling rotations that have characterized their defense most of the season, and they limited the Nuggets to just 22 three-point attempts — more than nine below Denver’s season average.

Now, Denver did have an offensive rating of 125 during Jokic’s minutes, which is exactly average for him this season. Still, average is a colossal step forward for Washington, which has been among the NBA’s worst defenses this season. Even if it is just one game.

What ultimately cost the Wizards was their offense. The main culprits: Jordan Poole (1-7 from the floor, two turnovers, offensive rating: 42), Corey Kispert (1-9 from the floor and a turnover, ortg: 62), Deni Avdija (1-5 shooting and two turnovers, ortg: 63), and Bilal Coulibaly (4-9 shooting, two turnovers, ortg: 84).

For those not keeping score at home, that quartet combined to shoot 7-30 from the field, 2-14 from three-point range, and commit 7 turnovers. They used 34 possessions to produce 22 points for a combined offensive rating of 64. Their teammates used 65 possessions to produce 82 points — an ortg of 127.

Musings & Observations

  • Heckuva defensive game from Bilal Coulibaly, who lived up to his French Deflection nickname (that someone used on Twitter and I like). He had a steal and a career high four blocked shots.
  • This was Marvin Bagley III’s best game since coming to the Wizards in my eyes. He had 14 points and 7 rebounds (5 offensive) and was no more overwhelmed than Daniel Gafford trying to defend Jokic.
  • Kyle Kuzma had a solid heads-up playmaking game — seven assists to two turnovers.
  • Tyus Jones had a very Tyus Jones kind of game — 15 points, 13 assists, 1 turnover, not a lot of defense.
  • I would like to say that Poole played well despite the bad shooting and turnovers, but that would be a lie. The best word to describe his performance is “inert.” In 28 minutes, he managed one rebound, zero assists, zero steals, zero blocks.

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 0.534 0.467
OREB 13 12
TOV 13 12
FTM 19 18
ORTG 114 105

Stats & Metrics

Below are a few performance metrics, including the Player Production Average (PPA) Game Score. 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. 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 114.8. 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 former Wizards assistant coach Dean Oliver and modified 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” 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

Tyus Jones 31 65 129 22.6% 2.0 180 22.8 -11
Marvin Bagley III 18 36 149 26.8% 3.2 236 16.8 1
Daniel Gafford 30 63 122 18.2% 0.7 117 14.3 -8
Landry Shamet 16 33 131 31.4% 1.6 198 12.9 3
Kyle Kuzma 33 68 112 21.6% -0.6 85 11.3 -11
Delon Wright 17 35 124 11.2% 0.3 147 9.9 2
Bilal Coulibaly 31 64 84 14.1% -2.9 56 7.0 -14
Deni Avdija 18 38 63 21.2% -4.2 -17 0.0 -2
Corey Kispert 18 37 62 25.9% -5.1 -98 0.0 5
Jordan Poole 28 58 42 13.0% -5.6 -121 0.0 -10

Stats & Metrics: Nuggets

Nikola Jokic 36 75 175 31.5% 13.9 438 63.8 20
Michael Porter Jr. 32 67 106 19.5% -1.3 142 18.6 13
Aaron Gordon 31 64 95 19.4% -2.6 113 14.2 12
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 35 73 93 13.8% -2.3 61 8.8 10
Jamal Murray 39 80 94 25.5% -4.4 38 6.0 4
DeAndre Jordan 7 14 120 22.3% 0.1 128 3.4 -4
Peyton Watson 13 26 61 16.5% -2.4 50 2.6 -2
Reggie Jackson 21 43 110 8.4% -0.2 30 2.5 5
Christian Braun 21 44 93 9.5% -0.9 26 2.2 -9
Zeke Nnaji 5 11 79 39.4% -1.5 -56 0.0 -4